No reason for a catastrophe

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No reason for a catastrophe
No reason for a catastrophe

No reason for a disaster scenario

On the occasion of the 4th press seminar of the Society of German Chemists (GDCh) on November 21st and 22nd, 1997 in Königstein, the designated new chairman of the Advisory Board for Existing Substances (BUA), the toxicologist Professor Dr. Helmut Greim, a first status report on hormone-like substances in the environment. His conclusion:It is not yet possible to make a final assessment, but the importance of endocrine disrupting substances for human he alth seems to be less than previously feared. The report states that the reason for this statement is that both the potency and the concentration of the substances are changing Orders of magnitude lower than e.g. that of the body's own estrogens. Under certain conditions (e.g.locally occurring very high concentrations) these substances can have serious effects on the environment, as observations on wild animals show. On the other hand, phytoestrogens, which occur naturally in human and animal food, are ingested in significantly larger amounts compared to environmental chemicals and depending on dietary habits. However, they also show a much lower potency than endogenous estrogens.

Scientific work dealing with the influence of environmental chemicals on the sperm count sometimes insufficiently takes into account other important influencing factors, so that contradictory statements are made and there are no clear connections between the decrease in the sperm count and the occurrence such chemicals. The BUA believes that carefully conducted epidemiological studies are urgently needed to clarify the question of possible changes in sperm counts and the cause of increased testicular and breast cancer rates. Studies on the mechanism of the hormonal effects would certainly continue to be instructive. Above all, however, quantitative aspects should continue to be the focus of scientific work. In addition to determining the biological potency of the various industrial chemicals, phytoestrogens and endogenous hormones, their relative proportions of the total human exposure should also be determined.

According to the latest state of knowledge, the question of whether we are endangering our fertility and ability to survive through industrial chemicals is no longer as threatening as it was last year, when business, science and politics in Germany and worldwide launched further comprehensive research programs Hormone-like substances set in motion. However, the extent of the impact on the environment is unclear.

The task of the Advisory Board for Existing Substances is to summarize and evaluate the latest research results in this field in Germany from time to time. With these and other new priorities, the committee emerges from the advisory committee for environmentally relevant existing substances, which was established in 1982 as a cooperation committee for business, science and politics at the Gesellschaft Deutscher Chemiker and with its work has made a decisive contribution to better ecological and ecotoxicological evaluation of industrial chemicals.

The status report Hormone-like substances in the environment can be requested from the Society of German Chemists, Dept. Public Relations, Postfach 900440, 60444 Frankfurt, Tel. 069/7917-325.

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