The plastics industry has had its share of questions about whether endocrine-disrupting chemicals from its products can harm people.
Those who follow the topic will recognize debates about phthalates in vinyl products and bisphenol A in polycarbonate baby bottles.
Now the United Nations has weighed in on the topic.
The World Health Organization's International Program on Chemical Safety came out in August with a report saying there is no solid evidence that endocrine-disrupting chemicals, or EDCs, harm people — at least at the levels most of us are exposed to. The research looked at all potential EDCs, not just those in plastics.
“There is weak evidence that human health has been adversely affected by exposure to endocrine-active chemicals,” the report said.
EDCs are chemicals that can mimic human hormones and interfere with body functions, and they have been linked to cancer and reproductive problems.
The chemical industry welcomed the news. The American Chemistry Council said the report shows that “years of diligent scientific investigation have not demonstrated a causal link between environmental exposures” and harm to people.
ACC said it plans to continue to be involved in the debate, including through its $25 million-per-year research initiative, which includes spending on endocrine work.
But the industry shouldn't declare victory.
The report said there is extensive evidence that animals have been harmed by EDCs. In addition, the report notes that our knowledge about people is only just developing.
Crucial questions remain, such as how exposure early in life affects us. Some scientists say many health problems can be traced to hormonal issues.
So it would be premature to read the report as anything other than an initial conclusion on a complex topic. More work must be done.