Carnegie Mellon University
September 11, 2020

IGS Webinar Highlights the Harmful Effects of Endocrine-Disrupting Chemicals

By Ben Panko

In a webinar recently hosted by Carnegie Mellon University's Institute for Green Science, a leading expert on endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs) shared his new research on how the substances affect human health.

"This is a rapidly changing field," said Leonardo Trasande, a New York University professor who has long studied the various ways EDCs can impact human health. "Unfortunately, the more we understand, the more we realize the mechanisms are many and sundry."

In 2015 and 2016, Trasande led a major research effort that found that the negative health effects of EDCs cost Europe and the United States hundreds of billions of dollars each year. That series of studies identified more than a dozen likely associations between different EDCs and specific health outcomes.

"Our work only focused on a limited number of outcomes," Trasande said. "There's new science evolving suggesting that the breadth and depth of the impact of endocrine disruptors is even wider."

In a study published last month in The Lancet Diabetes and Endocrinology, Trasande and his collaborators updated and expanded their previous findings by screening thousands of studies to include more recent and convincing evidence of the troubling impact of EDCs.

Among the numerous additions was new or strengthened evidence of associations between per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances and low birth weights, phthalates and childhood obesity and polybrominated diphenyl ethers and intellectual disability and IQ loss.

"There is urgent need for policy action," Trasande concluded.

In an accompanying study, also published last month in The Lancet Diabetes and Endocrinology, Trasande and his collaborators compared the policy approaches to regulating EDCs in Europe and the United States, and suggested a new international framework for studying and remedying the impacts of EDCs.

When it comes to the benefits and drawbacks of EDCs, "we need to fundamentally rethink the tradeoffs we make," Trasande said. While it may seem like a daunting problem to tackle, Trasande is optimistic that increasing concerns and awareness of the dangers of EDCs will continue to spur companies and consumers to shy away from using them.

More information about the panel, which was moderated by Pete Myers, founder and chief scientist of Environmental Health Sciences and an adjunct professor of chemistry at Carnegie Mellon, can be found online here.