LIVING ON EARTH with Jeff Young and Nancy Langston
Endocrine disrupting chemicals like bisphenol A have been making news lately, with several states passing regulations limiting or banning their use. The trajectory of BPA is similar to another chemical, commonly known as DES, once prescribed for pregnant and menopausal women. Host Jeff Young talks with Professor Nancy Langston about the history of endocrine disrupting chemicals and how this history can inform future chemical regulation. Her book is called, “Toxic Bodies: Hormone Disruptors and the Legacy of DES.” (published March 19, 2010).
by Nancy Langston, Professor of environmental studies and forestry
– Abstract – ” Rates of intersexuality, reproductive cancers, and infertility appear to be increasing. Many researchers suspect that a key role is played by endocrine disruptors – the industrial pollutants that mimic hormones and disrupt the endocrine systems that shape sexual development. Yet, for all the concern raised by a flood of experimental research showing endocrine disruption in animals and epidemiological studies suggesting effects on human reproduction, the U.S. government has essentially failed to regulate these chemicals, retreating from a precautionary principle that would require caution in the use of potentially toxic chemicals. Debates in the 1930s and 1940s over the regulation of diethylstilbestrol (DES), the first synthetic estrogen and the first chemical known to act as an endocrine disruptor, show how political pressures, scientific uncertainty, and changing conceptual models of gender and health led to this retreat from precaution “.
In 1941 the FDA approved diethylstilbestrol use. In this gripping exploration, Nancy Langston shows how these chemicals have penetrated into every aspect of our bodies and ecosystems, yet the U.S. government has largely failed to regulate them and has skillfully manipulated scientific uncertainty to delay regulation. Personally affected by endocrine disruptors, Professor Langston argues that the FDA needs to institute proper regulation of these commonly produced synthetic chemicals.