The past 5 years represent a leap forward in our understanding of EDC actions on endocrine health and disease. The scientific literature published during this period has provided much deeper insights into the underlying molecular and cellular mechanisms of action, the importance of critical developmental exposure periods, and stronger epidemiological studies in humans from around the world. Despite limitations due to differences in experimental design in cell and animal studies and the need for caution in inferring causality from epidemiological work in humans, most studies support links between exposure and adverse outcomes.
Recommendations for Research Over the Next 5 Years
– Mechanistic studies of EDC actions on nuclear hormone receptors need to be extended beyond ERs, AR, PR, GR, ThR, and PPARs to other nuclear hormone superfamily members and to membrane steroid hormone receptors.
– Investigate EDC effects on enzymes involved in steroidogenesis, hormone metabolism, and protein processing in humans and animal models.
– Consider tissue-specific effects of EDCs.
– Translate research from rodents into nonhuman primates, sheep, and other species; and take advantage of transgenic (especially humanized) animals, keeping in mind the need for a better understanding of hormones and early-life development in humans.
– Test additional critical periods beyond prenatal and early postnatal—eg, adolescence as an additional sensitive developmental window.
– Evaluate EDC outcomes at different life stages–not just adulthood.
– Design studies to consider sex and gender differences in response to EDCs.
– Perform longitudinal and multigenerational analyses in animals and humans.
– Evaluate and implement emerging and sensitive testing systems, including highthroughput systems, for hazard assessment, screening, and prioritization.
– In humans, consider genetic diversity and population differences in exposures and outcomes. This should include racial, ethnic, socioeconomic, and geographic variables.
– Expand research to emerging “EDCs of interest” and to mixtures of low-dose EDCs.
– The team science approach, including teams of basic, translational, and clinical scientists; epidemiologists; health care providers; and public health professionals, needs to be a priority for future research and funding.
Recommendations Beyond Research for the Next 5 Years
– Educate the public, the media, politicians, and governmental agencies about ways to keep EDCs out of food, water, and air and to protect developing children, in particular.
– Develop industrial partners such as “green chemists” and others who can create products that test and eliminate potential EDCs.
– Recognize that EDCs are an international problem and develop international collaborations.
– Cultivate the next generation of EDC researchers, green chemists, physicians, and public health experts with expertise in endocrine systems.
– Funding agencies need to go beyond the “one scientist, one project” and “one clinician, one patient” perspective to fund team science and healthcare.
– Funding agencies need to prioritize EDC research in the basic, clinical, and epidemiological realms, especially considering that the cost of research and prevention will result in substantial cost savings in treatment and mitigation.
– Emphasize the need for precaution and prevention.
– Determine how much evidence is enough, based on rigorous, peer-reviewed science—keeping in mind that absolute proof of harm, or proof of safety, is not possible.
Accepted: September 2, 2015 – First Published Online: November 6, 2015.
Sources and more information
- Flickr album DES and EDCs Research.
- EDC-2: The Endocrine Society’s Second Scientific Statement on Endocrine-Disrupting Chemicals, DOI: 10.1210/er.2015-1010, November 06, 2015.
- Executive Summary to EDC-2: The Endocrine Society’s Second Scientific Statement on Endocrine-Disrupting Chemicals, DOI: 10.1210/er.2015-1093, September 28, 2015.
- Endocrine-Disrupting Chemicals: An Endocrine Society Scientific Statement, NCBI PMCID: PMC2726844, doi: 10.1210/er.2009-0002, June 2009.