Endocrine disrupting chemicals, which can interfere with the hormone system, potentially harming people’s ability to have kids, and children’s healthy development, have been in the news a lot lately. These chemicals have been identified in a wide range of personal care products. What’s not as well known, is that foods may also be an important pathway of exposure to endocrine disruptors.
Not surprisingly, Europe is ahead of the United States in testing foods for endocrine disruptors. Since 2004, a network of European scientists, called CASCADE, has published over one hundred papers that assess whether foods contain endocrine disruptors. They have discovered that there’s real reason for concern.
As the CASCADE scientists point out, because endocrine disruptors are more likely to build up in animal fat, and because most people high on the food chain, they are likely to be exposed to foods with higher levels of endocrine disruptors.
The scientists recommend:
In order to avoid exposure to endocrine disruptors, the consumer can choose food coming from the bottom of the food chain or certified organic food.
There are still many open questions about endocrine disruptors in our food supply.
The US government could begin to answer these questions by advancing food testing that includes the full range of health risks we are exposed to, not just pesticide poisoning. The US Environmental Protection Agency has been developing a testing program for over a decade now, yet has achieved little. President Obama should request that the EPA make food testing a priority.
This post was written by Professor Alastair Iles is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Environmental Science, Policy, and Management at the University of California, Berkeley. Dr. Iles studies science, technology, and environment, with a focus on how technologies – ranging from chemistry, energy systems, environmental health monitoring, to information technology – affect society and the environment. He received his PhD in Environmental Law and Policy from Harvard University, and previously studied Law at the University of Melbourne, Australia.