Sunday, May 27, 2007

EPA Pollutes Environment

In an executive branch of government distinguished for its resistance to common sense, the EPA is carving out for itself a niche of total obscurantism. Having been recently ordered by the Supreme Court to start enforcing the laws it was created to enforce, the EPA stalls still in protecting the environment.

The damage to the environment is being rivalled for high place in EPA idiocies by its program of research into environment's effects on the world's life forms.

Scientists say the Bush administration is developing a chemical testing program that favors the chemical industry when it comes to judging whether certain substances in the environment might cause cancer, infertility, or harm to babies in the womb.

What's billed as one of the most comprehensive screening programs ever to check whether chemicals can disrupt human hormones, scientists say, may instead prove to be a misleading $76 million waste. Federal officials defend the program, which aims to identify so-called "endocrine disruptors." They say that no tests can cover everything, and that the process of setting up the program has been open and transparent.

The critics agree that much is known about the tests – and, they say, the publicly available information is precisely what causes their concern. They say the Environmental Protection Agency has:
• Allowed lab tests, using rodents, that are so badly designed, they're almost certain to miss harmful chemicals. For instance, the EPA favors using a breed of rat that is relatively insensitive to several known hormone-disrupting chemicals. And the EPA plans to allow those rats to be fed chow that could mask the effect of some chemicals.

• Failed to guarantee that tests will be conducted on prenatal exposure to chemicals. Last week, a group of 200 scientists signed a declaration warning that exposure to chemicals in the womb may make babies more likely to develop diabetes, obesity, attention deficit disorder and infertility. The group urged action from governments around the world.

• Demanded the wrong dosage range, also raising the odds that harmful effects will be missed.

• Said it might allow chemical companies to tailor certain aspects of the tests.
"If your objective is not to find anything, that's the perfect way to do it," said Fred vom Saal, a developmental biologist at the University of Missouri. The National Resources Defense Council, an environmental advocacy group, says the EPA is bending to special interests. "There certainly is industry influence," said Dr. Sarah anssen, a reproductive biologist with the group in San Francisco. "What really is driving [the decisions] is the industry focus of the administration. That's why the EPA listens to them."

EPA officials respond that they have developed the program – called the Endocrine Disruptor Screening Program – in an open manner to protect it from special interests. "You're always going to find people that think their issue is not given appropriate attention," said EPA biologist James Kariya, a coordinator of the screening program. "But if anything, this program has been very transparent, very open."
"We need to put traditional toxicology on the back burner and find a better approach," said Theo Colborn, a zoologist with the University of Florida and president of the Endocrine Disruption Exchange, an independent research group.

Dr. Colborn was one of the first scientists to recognize that chemicals leaching into the environment were disrupting hormones in wildlife. "The assays that the EPA has proposed are still based on high doses."

Counter to what one might expect, hormones can have unexpected effects at lower doses, recent studies have found.

"Endocrine disruptors affect the endocrine system," said Wade Welshons, a biologist at the University of Missouri. And in that system, he said, "the lowest levels are the ones that are the most important."

For example, scientists have found that while high neonatal doses of the former anti-miscarriage drug DES cause weight loss in mice, low doses cause obesity later in life. Rat experiments on DEHP, a phthalate found in plastics and other consumer products, show that low doses suppress an enzyme needed for proper development of the male brain. High doses stimulate the enzyme.

Dr. Welshons says that even the well-known drug tamoxifen, given to treat certain breast tumors, is known to have opposite effects at different levels in the body. When a woman first starts taking tamoxifen and levels in the body are still low, the drug can actually cause a tumor to "flare," or grow. Only when levels build does tamoxifen slow tumor growth.

The doses to be tested under the EPA program are too high if the goal is to detect chemicals that interfere with hormones, say Dr. Welshons and other scientists. The EPA program will miss many low-dose effects, he said.

"You can't start from the top and go down," Dr. Welshons said. "You have to start from the bottom and go up."
For instance, when the EPA solicited a white paper on which strain of animal to use, they went to a toxicologist who works for a company that does testing for the chemical industry.

"The livelihood of their company is completely dependent on ... good relationships with the chemical companies," said Missouri's Dr. Welshons.

Researchers disappointed with the screening program say they anticipate legal battles over any decisions unfavorable to the chemical industry.

"Once the tests are in place, there will be a whole new fight about which chemicals will be covered," said Dr. Ted Schettler, a physician with the Science and Environmental Health Network, and former member of a committee advising the EPA on the screening program.

And as far as research goes, the public will have to rely on individual scientists' work to discover whether chemicals are harmful.

Once again, the interests of the public are subordinate to the interests of industries that the executive branch was created to regulate, not promote. Our health is once again disposable to the cretin in chief and his toadies.

My apologies to toads for the slight.

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Anonymous dr torg said...


4:15 PM  
Blogger Ruth said...

This appears to express the view that some one paid to protect the public interest should continue to accept public funds for doing this job when they have failed utterly to do so. This is called "crime".

4:05 AM  
Blogger NYMary said...

Yes, because I always carry around a pocket air and water toxicity detector.

Don't you?

(You sure that's not Merkin, Ruth?)

4:24 AM  

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