WASHINGTON — Industry and environmental officials gave favorable reviews to an Oct. 5 Environmental Protection Agency plan to test chemicals to see if they harm human hormone systems.
The program calls for putting 15,000 chemicals through an initial round of testing. The list will likely include plasticizers and plastic additives like bisphenol A, but will exclude polymers because their molecules are considered too big to react with endocrine systems.
Chemicals identified by the tests as possible endocrine disrupters will proceed to more complicated and costly analysis.
``The chemical industry is supportive of the effort because we want to resolve the public's concerns,'' said Sandra Tirey, co-leader of the public health team of the Chemical Manufacturers Association in Arlington, Va. ``This is a milestone, but not the end of the journey.''
Theo Colburn, a scientist with the World Wildlife Fund and a member of the panel that developed the testing program, told an EPA briefing that she ``had little hope we could achieve this much'' when the effort began 20 months ago.
But the biggest issue will be getting full funding for the program, she said. EPA officials said they expect to get $4 million to launch the effort this year but would need about $10 million.
Industry will pay for many of the tests, which in later phases of the testing program can cost from $150,000-$2 million per chemical. EPA officials said it will be at least four years before any chemical is tested completely but some information may start filtering out earlier.
Bisphenol A already is part of a trial designed to determine whether the initial tests are scientifically valid, said Jack LaCovey, spokesman for the Society of the Plastics Industry Inc.'s Bisphenol A Task Group.
EPA's advisory panel, the Endocrine Disruptor Screening and Testing Advisory Committee, recommended that more research is needed to resolve a controversy surrounding whether abnormally low doses of potential endocrine disrupters can cause problems.
Some research on BPA has found problems at very low doses, a conclusion which runs counter to traditional toxicology, which says that effects get more severe as the dosage rises. SPI expects to release its research attempting to duplicate those studies during the week of Oct. 12.
Tirey also said CMA is concerned about how the results of some of the initial screenings will be reported to the public. The research needs to be made public, but those initial tests are designed to produce ``false positives,'' she said.
``You don't want more weight or meaning attached to the results than is warranted,'' Tirey said.