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  Research Plan for Endocrine Disruptors (EPA/600/R-98/087) February 1998

The 1996 Strategic Plan for the Office of Research and Development (ORD) sets forth ORD’s vision, mission, and long-term research goals. As part of this strategic process, ORD used the risk paradigm to identify EPA’s top research priorities for the next several years. The ORD strategic plan is thus the foundation for the research strategies and plans that ORD has developed, or is in the process of developing, to identify and describe individual high-priority research topics.

A research plan is different from a research strategy. A research strategy provides the framework for making and explaining decisions about program purpose, direction, relative priorities, and research distributions. The strategy is an overarching view of research needs and priorities, and forms the basis for the research plan. It is a link between the ORD strategic plan and the individual research plan.

A research plan defines the research program that EPA is pursuing. The plan links the research strategy to individual laboratory implementation plans (which serve as the blueprints for work at ORD’s national laboratories and centers) by defining the research topic at the project level. One of these high-priority research topics is endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs).

The Research Plan for Endocrine Disruptors was developed through recommendations from two EPA workshops:

  • April 1995 in Raleigh, North Carolina, covering human and ecological needs from a broad risk assessment-based perspective
  • June 1995 in Duluth, Minnesota, focusing on ecological research needs through risk assessment breakout groups, the scientific judgment of the ORD Research Planning Committee, and internal and external peer reviews

ORD developed this research plan because of the possibility of serious effects on human and wildlife populations and the persistence of some EDCs in the environment. The key scientific questions the EDC research plan sets out to address are:

  • What EDC-related effects are occurring in exposed human and wildlife populations?
  • What are the chemical classes of interest and their potencies?
  • What are the dose-response characteristics in the low-dose region?
  • Do EPA’s testing guidelines adequately evaluate potential endocrine-mediated effects?
  • What extrapolation tools are needed?
  • What are the effects of exposure to multiple EDCs? Will a toxicity equivalency factor approach be applicable?
  • How and to what degree are human and wildlife populations exposed to EDCs?
  • What are the major sources and environmental fates of EDCs?
  • How can unreasonable risks be managed?

To answer these questions, the EDC research plan establishes research priorities in these broad categories:

  • Basic research
  • Biomarkers
  • Database development
  • Exposure determination
  • Exposure follow-up
  • Mixtures
  • Research plan for endocrine disruptor multidisciplinary studies
  • Risk assessment methods
  • Hazard identification
  • Sentinel species

This research plan is an important accountability tool because it makes clear the rationale for, and the intended products of, EPA’s endocrine disruptor research. By specifying in advance how its scientific data and information products will be managed, EPA can communicate the results of its EDC research effectively to its clients, stakeholders, and the public. This research plan is also an important budget tool, enabling EPA to clearly track progress toward achieving its EDC research goals, as required by the 1993 Government Performance and Results Act.


Greg Sayles

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