Friday, February 3, 2012

Scientists Want FDA to Ban BPA, Endocrine Disruptors

© Nick Michael
Frederick vom Saal, professor of biological
sciences, poses for a portrait in his laboratory
in Lefevre Hall at MU on Nov. 13.
Vom Saal has researched the effects of
industrial chemicals, such as bisphenol A,
which acts as an endocrine disruptor, that
can enter the human body and mimic
hormones. Low levels of endocrine disruptors
can be found in household goods and
the environment, but according to Vom
Saal's research, even small exposure
to such chemicals can have drastic effects
on biological systems.
Scientists Want FDA to Ban BPA, Endocrine Disruptors by Simina Mistreanu

 For the past 20 years, much of MU biology professor Frederick vom Saal's research, thoughts and time have converged into one point: trying to get endocrine disruptors - chemicals that interfere with the hormone system and can cause obesity, infertility and cancer - out of daily use.

He's accomplished the laboratory part, which resulted in dozens of scientific papers outlining the negative effects of bisphenol-A, an endocrine disruptor found in plastics.

Endocrine disruptors are everywhere in the environment: in plastics, food cans, clothing fabrics, furniture and household and beauty products.

Now he's doing the communicator's part, trying to convince U.S. authorities to regulate the chemicals.

In mid-September, Vom Saal was among 20 scientists who met in a closed session in St. Louis to discuss why, in the face of what they see as mountainous evidence, U.S. regulatory agencies such as the Food and Drug Administration don't ban endocrine-disrupting chemicals.

Vom Saal's work, and that of other scientists, has so far persuaded 11 states, Canada, China and the European Union to enact legislation prohibiting or restricting endocrine disruptors. Now he's making further attempts to crack a tougher nut: the U.S. regulatory system.

That's why Vom Saal, 67, spent most of the first week of October away from his beloved laboratory mice. Instead, he knuckled down at the computer in his office in Lefevre Hall, surrounded by figurine mice and a drawing of a wide-eyed rodent. He had a paper to write.

Seen as a three-act play, vom Saal's pursuit is near the end of its second act - influencing federal regulation on endocrine disruptors.

Getting to Act 3 might be up to the public.

"As a scientist I feel I have an obligation to identify when, in fact, science and government policy are not consistent with each other," Vom Saal says. "And that's what I'm doing."

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