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2012 WHO/UNEP report “State of the Science of Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals” doesn’t meet the mark

When the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the World Health Organization (WHO) published its 2012 “State of the Science on Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals” report in February 2013, ACC noted, based on our  initial read of the report (see ACC’s press release here), that best practices of systematic evidence-based review were not used by the report authors.

To get a better understanding of the processes and conclusions of the WHO/UNEP report, we jointly commissioned, in cooperation with other industry associations*, an in-depth, third-party expert, review led by Dr. James Lamb. This review has been published in the peer reviewed journal Regulatory Toxicology and Pharmacology (publicly available as an open access article).

Joint Statement on Review of WHO/UNEP Report on Endocrine Disruptors (February 2014)

The findings reported in the Regulatory Toxicology and Pharmacology article document that the 2012 WHO/UNEP report:

  • Employed a process that did not attempt to capture the full spectrum of expert views on the issue of endocrine disruption.
  • Presented a Summary for Decision Makers that is not truly representative of the conclusions in the main report, and which asserts findings not reflected in the main document.
  • Inappropriately put aside the previous WHO/ICPS recommended weight of evidence framework for objectively assessing and integrating the available data on endocrine disruption, and instead relied on the authors’ subjective “best professional judgement.
  • Attributed trends in human disease incidence or prevalence to endocrine disruption, without evidence of their known causes or discussion of other possible causative factors (e.g. diet, lifestyle, physical activity, etc.).
  • Provided little discussion of dose-response and potency, which are key determinants for causing toxicity and adverse effects, including endocrine disruption.

Given these documented findings, it’s clear that WHO/UNEP needs to take steps to properly examine the strengths and weaknesses of the available research by using sound scientific principles and methods that meet 21st century scientific standards for evaluating complex technical issues, such as endocrine disruption. By meeting these standards, the totality of the objective scientific evidence can be used to inform decision makers in developing approaches to evaluate and regulate chemicals in order to protect public health and the environment.

*The following groups participated: American Chemistry Council; European Chemical Industry Council; Crop Life America; Crop Life Canada; Crop Life International; and the European Crop Protection Association.

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