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5 August 2019

New online database for identifying endocrine disruptors

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A team at the Institute of Mathematical Sciences in Chennai, India, has placed online a database which identifies 686 endocrine disruptors. The database is called DEDuCT: Database on Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals and their Toxicity Profiles

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DEDuCT is based on an analysis of existing scientific literature. More than 16,000 articles have been reviewed. To begin with, 1,626 chemical agents were identified in the articles that met the criteria for inclusion in the study. Some agents were then ruled out, notably natural hormones, agents tested as a mixture and agents tested for therapeutic use. The research also ruled out the agents for which there only data from in vitro testing with rodents available. The final selection, based on 1,796 publications, identifies 686 endocrine disruptors.

The identified endocrine disruptors have been classed according to different criteria. Their effects may have been observed in vivo in human beings (Category I: 7 substances identified), in vivo in rodents and in vitro in experiments with human cells (Category II: 142 substances identified), solely on in vivo in rodents (Category III: 367 substances identified), or solely in vitro with human cells (Category IV: 170 substances identified).

Another purpose of the database is to identify effects on health. Seven general categories of effects of disruptors linked to the hormonal system were established: reproduction, development, metabolism, the hepatic system, immunology and neurology, as well as cancers relating to the hormonal system. For each of these categories, the database can be used to verify if specific effects have already been identified in the scientific literature regarding particular substances. For example, if the user searches for ‘ovarian cancer’, they will find four endocrine disruptors identified as being associated with this pathology.

A third possible research approach is by the use of substances. The database distinguishes seven major categories: consumer products, agriculture, industry, medicine and healthcare, pollutants, natural sources, and intermediate inputs in production processes. A particularly high number of endocrine disruptors were identified in categories where there is decisive occupational exposure (299 for agriculture, 301 for industry, and 212 for healthcare).

This new database complements the five databases already in existence across the world. The most complete list was created by the TEDX research institute in the United States. It came out of a cooperation with NGOs and academic institutions and is regularly updated and accompanied by a systematic scientific research programme. It currently includes more than 1,400 substances.

Also of note are the DEPS screening programme of endocrine disruptors launched by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Endocrine Disruptor Knowledge Base (EDKB) created at the initiative of the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) federal agency, the report presented by the World Health Organisation in 2013, and the EDCs DataBank of the University of Cartagena in Colombia.

In the European Union, no official database on endocrine disruptors currently exists. A list of priority substances for evaluation was created by the DG Environment in 2000. Under the REACH regulation, only 16 substances have so far been added to the list of substances of very high concern (the candidate list of substances for authorisation) due to their effects of endocrine disruption either on the environment or on human health.

In September 2017, the European Commission adopted criteria for identifying endocrine disruptors as part of the regulation on biocides, and in November 2018 it published a communication on its strategy for protecting citizens and the environment against the harmful effects of these substances.

However, according to Laurent Vogel, researcher at the European Trade Union Institute (ETUI), “the much too restrictive definition of criteria for endocrine disruption adopted by the European Commission in December 2017 is now an obstacle to an ambitious policy on public health and environmental protection. It is not very likely that the strategy adopted in 2018 will lead to significant progress. The issue of occupational exposure is dramatically underestimated and there is currently no Community legislation that specifically addresses the question of occupational risk prevention in relation to endocrine disruptors.”

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