On March 20, 2013 the European Food and Safety Agency (EFSA) published its Scientific Opinion on the hazard assessment of endocrine disruptors. The opinion defines Endocrine Active Substances (EAS) as substances that interfere at any stage with the endocrine system, causing a biological effect that is not necessarily adverse. It stresses the necessity of expert judgment in a weight-of-evidence approach to identify adversity. The opinion states that a “reasonably complete suite of standardized assays” is or will soon be available to test for estrogen, androgen, thyroid, or steroidogenesis (EATS) modalities of endocrine active chemicals. EFSA’s experts assert that while mammalian tests may not cover all windows of susceptibility, fish lifecycle tests can be expected to reveal long term effects of chemical exposure during early life stages. Finally, it is concluded that EAS can be subjected not only to hazard assessment but also risk management as applied to other conventional chemicals. The problematic of cumulative toxicity will be assessed separately at a later point in time, according to EFSA’s scientific opinion.
The opinion has raised criticisms by the Health and Environment Alliance (HEAL) and the International Chemical Secretariat (ChemSec). The two non-governmental organizations argue that EFSA’s suggestion to use risk assessment in the evaluation of endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) neglects the fact that EDCs act on top of the already active endocrine system and are unlikely to have thresholds, as is commonly assumed under the current risk assessment paradigm. They refer to the recent State of the Art Assessment of Endocrine Disrupters (pdf) report commissioned by the EU Commission arguing that current testing methods are inadequate to detect endocrine disruptors. Finally, they claim that scientific consensus on low dose effects and non-monotonic dose-responses is indeed well established, but remains unrecognized in the EFSA opinion.
The pesticide industry criticized EFSA’s scientific opinion as rushed in order to meet political deadlines.The conclusions were welcomed by the UK’s Chemical Industries Association (CIA) who agree that endocrine disrupting chemicals can be managed in the same way as other compounds.