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Controversies in Science and TechnologyFrom Sustainability to Surveillance$
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Daniel Lee Kleinman, Karen A. Cloud-Hansen, and Jo Handelsman

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780199383771

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2020

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780199383771.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (oxford.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use. date: 25 January 2022

Endocrine Disruptors in the Environment

Endocrine Disruptors in the Environment

(p.153) Chapter 11 Endocrine Disruptors in the Environment
Controversies in Science and Technology

Nancy Langston

Oxford University Press

Since World War II, the production of synthetic chemicals has increased more than 30-fold due to the post-war boom in petrochemical exploration, manufacture, and marketing. The modern chemical industry, now a global enterprise of $2 trillion annually, is central to the world economy, as it generates millions of jobs and consumes vast quantities of energy and raw materials. Today, more than 70,000 different industrial chemicals are synthesized and sold each year (Chandler 2005; McCoy et al. 2006). New technologies and methods for the detection of these synthetic chemicals have drawn increasing attention to the pervasive and persistent presence of hormone-disrupting chemicals in our lives. Hormones—the chemicals that deliver messages throughout the body in order to coordinate physical processes—are deeply sensitive to external interference, and the consequences of such interference are becoming ever more apparent. In July 2005, the Centers for Disease Control (2005) released its Third National Report on Human Exposure to Environmental Chemicals, revealing that industrial chemicals now permeate bodies and ecosystems. Many of these chemicals can interfere with the body’s hormonal signaling system (called the endocrine system), and many persistently resist the metabolic processes that bind and break down natural hormones. More than 358 industrial chemicals and pesticides have been detected in the cord blood of minority American infants (Environmental Working Group 2009). Accumulating data suggests that reproductive problems are also increasing across a broad range of animals, from Great Lakes fish to people. Many researchers suspect that the culprits are environmental exposures to synthetic chemicals that disrupt hormonal signals, particularly in the developing fetus. Endocrine-disrupting chemicals are not rare; they include the most common synthetic chemicals in production, such as many pesticides, plastics, and pharmaceutical drugs. Since World War II, synthetic endocrine-disrupting chemicals have permeated bodies and ecosystems throughout the globe, potentially with profound health and ecological effects (Krimsky 2000). Hormones are chemical signals that regulate communication among cells and organs, thus orchestrating a complex process of fetal development that relies on precise dosage and timing.

Keywords:   atrazine, birth defects, dosage, epigenetics, fetus, habitat, jobs, obesity, pollution, toxicity

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