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Industry Addiction to Estrogen Mimickers & Endocrine Disrupters

Hello all - 

Enclosed is much of the main body text of a recent article in CAQ Quarterly.  By
coincidence (?), I had just picked up this issue at the newstand the day this
arrived on email, so I can tell you:

(1) That the full title of this article is:  "Industry Addiction to Estrogen
Mimickers & Endocrine Disrupters - Who is Sealing Our Future?" and it's printed
in their Fall 1996 issue.

(2) That, in addition to what's copied into this email, there are a number of
interesting side bars - 
(a) "What are They?" (hormones and hormone disruptors) 
(b) "Nowhere is safe," with specific examples of contamination; 
(c) A copy of a book cover "Saving the Planet with Pesticides and Plastics",
published by the right-wing Hudson Institute and with such "snappy chapter
titles as: 'Preventing Cancer with Pesticides' and 'The Empty Threat of DDT"
(d) "Toxic Thugs" discussing specific chemicals; 

And - exquisitely relevant to this list, on p. 20 is a sidebar

(e) "Leaked memo shows how industry fights environmentalists"

Guess who sent the example memo? A PR firm (MBD) to our friends the CCC
(Chlorine Chemical Council), on 9/7/94.  And the topic - a report on
"anti-chlorine groups' activities" including references to information and
"recommendations regarding" individual activists as well as recommendations "as
to how best to counter the activists."  It talks about strategies,
"anti-chlorine" events, specific actions to counter this work, including
preventing medical associations from joining anti-chlorine movements...  Little
respect is shown for our concerns, for ex. "NWF uses the issue of fertility as a
vehicle to play on the emotions of the public and its concern for future
generations."  Oh, I see - those pesky concerns are only being manipulated - the
fact that our survival is at risk is not an actual fact that should concern us.
Any activist working on this issue will be highly enlighted by studying this
document (a likely a bit outraged - but it's good information to have for
strategy and shedding light on this situation). 

Anyway, I've found this a quite interesting well-footnoted probing article, and
thought you might too - hope you do!

Patricia Dines

NOTE: This email version has the footnote #s but not the full footnotes, which
are of course interesting in themself, and enhance the credibility of this
piece.  Don't know what else might be at their web site....

---Forward ---
From: Rich Winkel, INTERNET:rich@pencil.math.missouri.edu
To: Patricia Dines, 73652,1202
To: Multiple recipients of list ACTIV-L <ACTIV-L@MIZZOU1.MISSOURI.EDU>
Date: Sun, Oct 13, 1996, 10:48 AM
Subject: CAQ: Industry Addiction to Estrogen Mimickers & Endocrine

/** covertaction: 52.0 **/
** Topic: Estrogen Mimickers & Endocrine Disrupters: Who's Stealing Our Future**
** Written  6:10 PM  Sep 21, 1996 by caq in cdp:covertaction **
by Pratap Chatterjee . . . . . . .  . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .16


Polar bears in the Arctic circle and albatrosses in the middle
of the Pacific were the last creatures that scientists expected
to be threatened by synthetic chemicals. But the pristine
wilderness and the pure ocean vastness are as extinct as the
dodo   and just as much casualties of human activity. When
the albatross population suffered a 3 percent drop in
reproduction rates over the last few years, New Zealand
researchers discovered abnormally high levels of synthetic
chemicals in the birds' bodies. When polar bear reproduction
dropped by more than half, Norwegian researchers
documented levels of toxic chemicals in the animals that are
3 billion times higher than in the cold waters near which
they live.  *1

The recently published book, Our Stolen Future, brings
together mounting scientific evidence that thousands of
synthetic chemicals in common use are accumulating all
along the food chain and are turning up everywhere from
remote virgin forest to supermarket shelf. (See p. 17.) If the
authors are right, a group of chemicals known as endocrine
disruptors and hormone mimickers are undermining the
health and genetic viability of hundreds of species, including
humans. And because the implicated chemicals   including
PCBs, chlorine, atrazine, DDT, and various plastics used to
manufacture five gallon water containers and approximately
half the canned goods in this country   are so widely used
in agriculture and industry, the financial vitality and
survival of many corporations is also at stake. Not
surprisingly, then, in addition to calls for further
investigation and research, the storm of controversy around
the new studies implicating these chemicals has also
sparked a counterattack funded and promoted by the
corporations that would be affected by regulation or a ban.

The way these chemicals work is to "mimic" or "block"
estrogen and progesterone   natural chemicals known as
hormones  which instruct the body in how it should develop
and reproduce. "Hormonally active synthetic chemicals are
thugs on the biological information highway that sabotage
vital communication.They mug the messengers or
impersonate them. They jam signals. They scramble
messages," write the authors of Our Stolen Future.For
example: "Imagine what would happen if somebody
disrupted communications during the construction of a large
building so the plumbers did not get the message to install
the pipes in half the bathrooms before the carpenters closed
the building."

Now imagine that the chemicals that affect communications
in the endocrine system are everywhere "in the finest caviar,
in penguins in Antarctica, in the bluefin tuna served at a
sushi bar in Tokyo, in the monsoon rains that fall on
Calcutta, in the milk of a nursing mother in France, in the
blubber of a sperm whale cruising the South Pacific."2

Throw in a couple more alarming facts. Billions of pounds of
these chemicals are pumped annually into the air, land, and
water, but the amount required to disrupt reproduction
cycles could be as low as one part in a trillion   equivalent
to just one drop of liquid in the cars of a six-mile-long cargo
train.Humans are particularly vulnerable since the
concentration of many of these chemicals increases in
animals high in the food chain. The reason is two-fold: First,
the chemicals are "persistent," meaning they do not break
down, and second, they are stored permanently in body fat so
that when a larger animal eats smaller animals, the
predator incorporates the pollutants of its prey.

Finally, perhaps the most devastating news of all is that
some of the chemicals with weak endocrine disrupting effects
on their own become far more dangerous when two or more
of them are found together. Research conducted by two
scientists from Tulane University in Louisiana   on four
pesticides (chlordane, dieldrin, endosulfan, and toxaphene)
and several different kinds of PCBs   showed that two or
more such chemicals in combination could be as much as
1,600 times as powerful as the individual chemicals alone. *3

In the past, scientists looking for the harmful effects of
chemical contamination have tended to focus on cancer.
While there is evidence linking this class of chemicals to the
32 percent rise in breast cancer rates and the 126 percent
increase in prostate cancer in recent years, the situation is
more complex and far more alarming. "Humans in their
relentless quest for dominance over nature may be
inadvertently undermining their own ability to reproduce or
to learn and think," warns Our Stolen Future co-author Theo
Colburn. Exposure to estrogen mimicking or endocrine
disrupting chemicals such as dioxin may not kill, but may,
notes an EPA report, lead to "complex and severe effects
including cancer, feminization of males and reduced sperm
counts, endometriosis and reproductive impairment in
females, birth defects, impaired intellectual development in
children, and impaired immune defense against infectious

These chemicals could also be a significant factor in the
rapid disappearance of many species around the world, such
as the golden toad in Costa Rica, panthers in the Florida
Everglades, otters in England, and dolphins off the coast of
Turkey. For example, after Tower Chemical spilled large
quantities of dicofol, a pesticide closely related to DDT, into
Lake Apopka in the early 1980s, alligators started appearing
with penises so shrunken they could not reproduce. *5

For fairly obvious reasons, though, the area which has
galvanized the scientific community and the media is the
link between these chemicals and a well-documented and
dramatic drop in human sperm count around the world.
Some 61 studies collected by Danish researchers,have shown
that  sperm counts in a number of European countries have
fallen by half in the last 30 years, while those in rapidly
industrializing countries in East Asia are dropping fast.6

DES, (diethylstilbestrol) provided one of the first confirmed
examples of how these chemicals can affect not only those
who are directly exposed, but also future generations. In the
late 1950s, and '60s this estrogen mimicker was prescribed
to millions of women for a variety of problems. Grant
Chemicals, one of the manufacturers, claimed that DES
produced "bigger and stronger babies," while doctors handed
it out to prevent miscarriages, suppress milk production, and
as a "morning-after" contraceptive. It was not until the 1970s
that researchers discovered that the drug dramatically
increases chances of clear-cell cancer and severe damage to
the reproductive tract that can result in ectopic pregnancies.
(Pregnancies that develop in the fallopian tubes as opposed
to the uterus can cause ruptures leading to severe bleeding
and sometimes death.) DES is now suspected of having
affected male offspring, and of possibly causing brain
problems in children of both genders.7

As they did when faced with evidence of the dangers of DES,
tobacco, global warming, nuclear waste, and pesticides,
industry leaders have denied that there are any problems,
and mounted PR    campaigns.Faced with a growing body of
evidence on the impact   of  chemicals on the endocrine
system,  they have turned to industry-sponsored groups and
scientists to disprove the studies available to potential
litigants and quoted by environmental groups pushing for

One industry scientist with a long history of producing
research that helped establish the safety of his employer's
products was Bill Gaffey, a mathematician who retired in
1989 as director of epidemiology for Monsanto Corp. Gaffey
published studies in 1980, a year after he started working for
the chemical giant, to show that there was no evidence of
unusual cancers among workers exposed to dioxin at a
Monsanto plant in Nitro, West Virginia. The plant
manufactured Agent Orange for chemical warfare in
Vietnam. *8 The study was important to Monsanto because
it was facing hundreds of millions, possibly billions, of
dollars in lawsuits by tens of thousands of Vietnam veterans
and by former Monsanto workers, all claiming they had been
harmed by exposure to dioxin-laden Agent Orange.

Peter Montague, editor of Rachel's Environment and Health
Weekly, charges that the Gaffey study gave the Veterans
Administration the "evidence" it wanted to justify denying
medical benefits to the Agent Orange vets. Finally, the
research allowed the EPA "to set generous limits on dioxin
exposures for the American public, thus providing minimal
regulation for politically powerful industries such as paper,
oil, and chemicals," says Montague. *9

Gaffey's role may have gone beyond sycophant science.
Lawyers involved in a 1984 worker lawsuit against
Monsanto discovered that Gaffey had listed four workers as
"unexposed" to dioxin when the same four workers had been
classified as "exposed" to dioxin in a previous Monsanto
study. Gaffey's co-author, who had worked on both studies,
confirmed that the data had been cooked. Six years later the
EPA acknowledged that the study was fraudulent and found
that dioxin was a probable carcinogen. *10

Gaffey's role in countering the studies cited by cancer victims
and environmental groups has been taken up by others.
Among the most quoted scientists on this subject is Stephen
H. Safe of Texas A&M University, who has published papers
contending that the contribution of synthetic chemicals to
disruption of endocrine systems is so "minuscule" that it
amounts to less than one-thousandth of one percent of the
amount of naturally occurring chemicals that have the same
effect. *11 He now tells reporters that the fears of
environmentalists could be dangerous to the economy. "You
could be talking about thousands of jobs and billions of
dollars to get rid of some of these chemicals, all because of
something that we have no compelling reason to believe is
really a threat." *12

Safe, whose work is partly funded by the Chemical
Manufacturers Association, is not the only industry-backed
scientist to publish studies that dismiss the impact of
endocrine-disrupting chemicals on human health. Last year,
researchers from Dow Chemical and Shell Oil showed that
the use of more complex statistical models could generate the
conclusion that human sperm counts have been increasing,
not decreasing, during the past 20 years. *13

These industry-funded studies have been given a major boost
by Gina Kolata, a New York Times reporter, who used
studies by Safe and others as background material for three
major articles that throw cold water on Our Stolen Future.
Kolata ran into trouble, however, when she quoted several
scientists as skeptical of the book when the scientists
themselves did not feel that way: *14 "(E)ven in quoting
these contrarian scientists, Ms. Kolata deceives and
misleads her readers by selectively distorting their views,"
charged  Montague. When the New York Times did not
publish protest letters from the misrepresented scientists,
they bought advertising space to set the record straight. *15

Meanwhile, industry is actively lobbying to redirect the
debate. In January 1991, chief executives of four major US
paper companies   John A. Georges of International Paper,
T. Marshall Hahn, Jr. of Georgia-Pacific, Furman C. Moseley
of Simpson Paper, and Andrew C. Sigler of Champion
International   went to see William Reilly, then head of
EPA, to convince him to re-assess the impact of dioxin. *16
A memo from the four to Reilly after the meeting described
their satisfaction: "We were encouraged by what we
perceived as your willingness to move expeditiously to
re-examine the potency of dioxin and chloroform in light of
the important new information that has been submitted with
respect to those chemicals" which indicated the "prevailing
view that low-level dioxin exposures do not pose a serious
health threat." *17

The EPA study, however, backfired on industry. In 1994,
agency scientists concluded that dioxin probably causes
cancer in wildlife and humans; harms the immune and
reproductive systems in fish, birds, and mammals (including
humans); and concluded that "there is no safe level of dioxin
exposure and that any dose no matter how low can result in
health damage." *18

Industry, not satisfied with government studies, is
commissioning its own investigations. The blandly named
Endocrine Issues Coalition   put together by the American
Crop Protection Association, the Chemical Manufacturers
Association, and the Society of Plastics Industry   recently
released a research agenda. It includes studies on breast
cancer, sperm quality, and endometriosis in humans;
estrogen effects in wildlife; a dioxin mechanistic study;
animal and aquatic toxicology studies; environmental
chemistry; testing methods; exposure studies; and risk
assessment. *19 According to Ron Miller of Dow Chemical
Corp., chair of the EIC, the group has a million dollars in
research funding. *20

Another industry-backed organization, the Chemical
Industry Institute of Toxicology (CIIT) in Research Triangle
Park, North Carolina, has just launched a three-year, $5
million research effort into how natural and synthetic
chemicals affect the human hormone system. Cancer
toxicology research   which traditionally took up two-thirds
of its program   is now making way for the study of
non-cancer effects such as neurotoxicity and endocrine
effects. CIIT is funded by dues from about 40 member
chemical companies including DuPont, Dow Chemical, Exxon
Chemical, General Electric, and Hoechst Celanese. Not every
major company is a member   BASF, Elf Atochem have
never paid dues to CIIT    while other major players such
as Amoco Chemical, BP America, Dow Corning, ICI
Americas, Olin, and Rhone-Poulenc, have dropped out. *21

In addition to sponsoring and promoting potentially
sympathetic scientific studies, the affected industries are
investing heavily in public relations campaigns designed to
challenge the growing anti-chemical lobby. In 1993, the
Chemical Manufacturers Association formed the Chlorine
Chemistry Council (CCC) in Washington, DC, which in turn
hired the aggressive public relations firm Mongoven, Biscoe
and Duchin (MBD) to target environmental groups. John
Mongoven, co-founder of the DC-based firm, has taken up the
issue personally and publishes a monthly briefing for his
clients. His long-term strategy in countering those warning
of the dangers of disrupter chemicals, says Montague of
Rachel's Weekly, is to characterize the "phase out chlorine"
position as "a rejection of accepted scientific method," as a
violation of the chlorine industry's constitutional right to
"have the liberty to do what they choose," and thus a threat
to fundamental American values.22

It is not the first time Mongoven has flacked for potentially
deadly products. He began his PR career in 1981 when he
was hired by the Nestl Corp. to organize its response to a
consumer boycott. Activists had charged that the company's
infant formula marketing practices in the Third World
encouraged poor women with no access to clean water to
abandon breast-feeding and switch to expensive infant
formula. Using dossiers that Mongoven compiled on the
churches and other groups leading the boycott, Nestl played
on divisions and rivalries within the activist coalition to talk
wavering "moderates" into abandoning the boycott. *23

MBD has often used similar strategies to neutralize activist
groups on behalf of a variety of corporate clients. For
example, after analyzing dioxin opposition, MBD picked the
New York-based environmental group INFORM as a
"moderate" group worth targeting for possible cooptation.
This kind of tactic is an MBD specialty according to PR
Watch editor John Stauber. He writes:

@XFDS = The field operatives who gather information for
Mongoven, Biscoe & Duchin are typically polite, low-key and
do their best to sound sympathetic to the people they are
interrogating. They have misrepresented themselves,
claiming falsely to be journalists, friends of friends, or
supporters of social change. Most of the time, however, they
simply give very limited information, identifying their
company only by its initials and describing MBD
euphemistically as a "research group" that helps "corporate
decision makers ... develop a better appreciation of the public
interest movement" in order to "resolve contentious public
policy issues in a balanced and socially responsible manner."

But perhaps the most far-reaching lobbying efforts are those
directed at changing government regulations. In January,
Ciba-Geigy's Crop Protection division met with the EPA's
Office of Water and Office of Pesticide Programs to present
its own studies on the health impact of the pesticide atrazine
to counter evidence of health risks presented by the
Washington-based Environmental Working Group. *24

Industry lobbying groups have also quietly begun to work
with government to change the way that emissions of toxic
chemicals are reported to the public. Traditionally, all
emissions of chemicals listed as toxic by the government
must be reported in a form that is accessible to the public. In
the last three years, 18 states have voted in various versions
of laws that allow companies to avoid telling authorities
about such emissions if industry conducts systematic
environmental audits internally. The Wall Street Journal
says that the new laws "encourage companies to monitor
their own activities rigorously without fear that what they
discover will be used against them." The newspaper reports
that these laws have been promoted by several industry
lobby groups including the Compliance Management and
Policy Group, the Corporate Environmental Enforcement
Council, and the Coalition for Improved Environmental

One such law in Colorado allows companies to withhold
information about air pollution. Another, under debate in
Arizona, would implement the "broadest secrecy laws in the
nation preventing the public from knowing what has actually
happened at a facility,'' according to Felicia Marcus, regional
administrator for the EPA. *26

Even when health authorities and governments make a
conscientious effort to set safety standards, they face
considerable difficulties. One of the main problems is that
the "safe" levels for chemicals in emissions and in everyday
products such as pesticides have been traditionally based on
their impact on adults, not children, who are at a far greater
risk; the assumption is that it is mostly adults who use these
products. But there is growing worry that the quantity of the
chemical is largely irrelevant; the crucial question is not how
much, but when exposure occurs. Thus one part in a million
of a certain chemical may be perfectly safe during 99.99
percent of the life-cycle of a normal human being, but
exposure to one part in a trillion at a particular time during
pregnancy may cause a life-long tragedy.

Given this danger, some activists say the only way to prevent
widespread sickness and disease is to question the current
course of human "progress." Montague, who has been
tracking the effects of synthetic chemicals on human health
for 10 years, advocates questioning the use of all such
substances. "The studies show that the strange new
chemicals that govern our current patterns of lifestyle and
consumption are killing us and making us sick," he says.
"There is a clear pattern in our history that shows that every
time we discover a dangerous chemical, we substitute it with
a different one that we know very little about. We can't
continue to do this. We have to stop using these chemicals
and start living simpler lives." *27

Some institutions have already suggested that entire classes
of chemicals be banned. Studies by the International Joint
Commission, a scientific body set up to study water quality
in the Great Lakes in Canada and the US, have shown that
of the toxic substances found in the lakes,half of those that
cause cancer and other health problems contain chlorine. As
a result, the Commission recommended phasing out all
chlorine-based chemicals. This conclusion was endorsed by
the American Public Health Association.28

While most scientists and government agencies are taking a
"wait and see" approach, some local communities around the
country are organizing to get answers for themselves. Last
year a grassroots group of women in Marin County,
California, a region that has the highest rate of breast cancer
in the nation, decided to stop waiting for the medical
community and commissioned its own research. The Marin
Breast Cancer Watch is currently preparing a survey of the
county to try to determine if environmental causes can
explain the high cancer rates. *29

In Seattle, groups including the Women's Health Action
Network and the Washington Toxics Coalition meet monthly
to talk about issues of reproductive health and synthetic
chemicals. Major environmental organizations like the
Environmental Defense Fund and Greenpeace have also
begun to lobby government and industry on these matters in
national capitals.

While industry claims we don't know enough to justify
action, many activists and researchers warn that if we wait
for definitive answers, it may be too late. The cost of doing
nothing will be illness and death for individuals, devastation
of the environment, and serious genetic damage for many
species, including humans. Many of the estimated 100,000
chemicals on the market today have not undergone rigorous
testing and about 1,000 new ones are added every year. The
burden of proof must shift so that the individual and
combined impact of these chemicals is assessed and those
that are not proven safe are banned. A phase-out period may
be necessary to find natural substitutes and alternatives for
substances already in use, but the ultimate goal must be a
ban on such substances. In addition, no new chemicals
should be introduced until complete testing is completed.

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** End of text from cdp:covertaction **

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