2012 EPA Research Progress Report
Reducing EDCs in Chesapeake Bay
EPA scientists worked with the University of Maryland Wye Research Center to determine how to reduce the amounts of endocrine disrupting hormones associated with Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations from reaching nearby waterways. Hormone-containing wastes from these operations can get into soil and water, leading to adverse effects such as intersex conditions in fish.
Research results from the collaboration showed that tilling poultry fecal waste into the soil and injecting the waste underground reduced endocrine disrupting hormones concentrations, as compared to not tilling the waste into the ground.
The findings will inform actions to reduce the amount of poultry steroid hormones in storm runoff coming from areas along Chesapeake Bay.
Endocrine Disrupting Chemical Research
Normal growth and development—from conception, through pregnancy and to childhood and adolescence—depends on the intricate timing and release of hormones by the body’s endocrine system, which regulates growth, maturation, and reproduction in people and animals.
Scientists have discovered that exposures to excess hormones or to certain chemicals, known collectively as “endocrine disrupting chemicals,” can disrupt the functioning of the endocrine system, which can lead to a series of development problems and other adverse effects, including cancer, diabetes, obesity, infertility, and childhood disorders.
As part of the effort to better protect human health and the environment, learning more about endocrine disrupting chemicals and how to screen and identify them from the thousands of chemicals in use has been a high priority for EPA researchers since the early 1990s.
In 2012, EPA scientists used innovative approaches to assess thousands of chemicals for potential endocrine disruption, and worked with outside research partners to investigate the effects of hormones in waste from concentrated animal feeding operations.
Innovative approaches included an EPA-developed Quantitative Structure Activity Relationship (QSAR)-based estrogen expert system, and the ToxCast approach (see previous stories), to screen thousands of chemicals and provide new information to EPA’s Endocrine Disruptor Screening Program (EDSP). The expert system predicts the potential for chemicals to bind to estrogen hormone receptors and activate genes that cause health effects.
EPA researchers worked closely with the EDSP to define the potential “chemical universe” of endocrine disrupting chemicals that require screening. In 2012, they identified more than 10,000 chemicals that make up this “chemical universe,” by identifying properties that could cause them to interfere with natural hormones and disrupt the endocrine system.
Advancements in 2012 included narrowing down the field of already confirmed endocrine disrupting chemicals to support targeted studies, and the identification of specific chemical interactions with important biological processes that are likely to cause toxicological effects. The scientific information is being used to help prioritize which chemicals should be tested first by EPA, and what additional tests are needed to assess the chemicals.