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expert reaction to series of studies reporting estimated cost to the EU of endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs)

A series of papers have been published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism which have estimated the cost of endocrine-disrupting chemicals to the European Union.

 

Prof. Richard Sharpe, Group Leader of Male Reproductive Health Research Team, University of Edinburgh, said:

“I can see the appeal of trying to turn some of the uncertainties that exist in science into something digestible by politicians and funders with the clear aim of making the case for more and better funding, but I have to say this is not an approach that sits well with me. I do agree with the authors in making a case for more funding of research in this area because irrespective of outcome it can only help (either by firming up the evidence for EDCs that can promote action or by exonerating EDCs and thus refocussing attention in other directions).

“However, what worries me about this approach is that whilst this may help to focus attention on the need for further research to clarify the huge number of uncertainties in these areas, these highly presumptive estimations inevitably become viewed and presented as being far more solid than they actually are, especially when taken out of context further down the line. For someone like me, who understands a lot about the complexities and confounding factors in this area, I am always worried when a prime suspect (in this case EDCs of varying sorts) is identified, vilified and stitched up with circumstantial evidence. If looked at from the other direction, the lack of convincing evidence for a role of even persistent (and now banned) EDCs as a major cause of human disease is an aspect that never gets equal attention, although I understand all of the arguments regarding how difficult it is to obtain definitive cause-effect data for humans. But in the same way that miscarriages of justice in law are a common consequence of having a prime suspect that then narrows down the focus, I am concerned that this sort of endeavour may have the same effect. What I am saying is that the reasonable speculation of these publications needs to be viewed through the prism of scientific method and investigation otherwise it runs the risk of endlessly pursuing a presumption. My guiding principle is to always clearly demarcate what is evidence (i.e. backed up by robust data) and what is interpretation and informed speculation. Most of the content of these publications is interpretation and informed speculation, and none of us should lose sight of this.”

 

‘Estimating burden and disease costs of exposure to endocrine-disrupting chemicals in the European Union’ by Leonardo Trasande et al., 

‘Male reproductive disorders, diseases, and costs of exposure to endocrine-disrupting chemicals in the European Union’ by Russ Hauser et al., 

‘Obesity, diabetes and associated costs of exposure to endocrine disrupting chemicals in the European Union’ by Juliette Legler et al., 

‘Neurobehavioral deficits, diseases and associated costs of exposure to endocrine disrupting chemicals in the European Union’ by Martine Bellanger et al., 

all published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism on Thursday 5 March 2015.

 

Declared interests

None declared

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