On December 15, 2020, the Endocrine Society together with the International Pollutants Elimination Network (IPEN) published a guide on endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs) and plastics for public interest organizations and policymakers.
Apart from introducing the reader to the most relevant aspects of the human endocrine system and some background on the origin of endocrine disruptors, the guide explains the many complex impacts EDCs can have on human health. These include effects on fetal development, the problem of multigenerational changes, and the relevance of EDCs exposure for the development of endocrine diseases.
The report focuses especially on EDCs found in plastics and, in particular, on bisphenols, phthalates, alkylphenol ethoxylates, nonylphenols, brominated flame retardants (BFRs), per- and poly-fluorinated substances (PFAS), benzotriazole UV stabilizers, and toxic metals.
With this guide, the Endocrine Society and IPEN intend to inform the public and decision-makers to support legislative changes. The report estimates that globally upwards of 23% of all deaths and 22% of human disability are attributable to environmental factors, with EDC exposures being one of them. The organization argues in the report that “… more efforts are needed to protect people and the environment from potentially harmful EDCs in plastics. Not all countries screen and regulate many known or potential EDCs and numerous compounds have yet to be tested for EDC activity and their impact on health.”
The guide also highlights and elaborates on key concepts of EDCs, for example, on the long latency between exposure and disease, how exposure to multiple EDCs requires new mixture models (FPF reported), and how EDCs can often exhibit non-monotonic dose-response curves.
In addition to public health concerns, the guide also introduces readers to the economic dimension, citing a study by Trasande et al., which concluded that “EDC exposures in the EU are likely to contribute substantially to disease and dysfunction across the life course with costs in the hundreds of billions of Euros per year.”
IISD (January 13, 2023). “Household Plastic Products Disrupt Endocrine System, Threaten Human Health.”
IPEN (December 15, 2020). “Plastics Pose a Threat to Human Health.”
Doyle Rice (December 16, 2020). “‘A serious threat’: Plastics we use every day are leaching hazardous chemicals, report says.” USA Today
Chemical Watch (December 17, 2020). “Health science group report summarises research on impact of plastic on human health.”
Endocrine Society (December 2020). “Plastics, EDCs & Health: A guide for public interest, organizations and policy-makers on, endocrine disrupting chemicals & plastics.” (pdf)
Trasande et al (2015). “Estimating Burden and Disease Costs of Exposure to Endocrine-Disrupting Chemicals in the European Union.” Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism. (pdf)