Seventeen scientists who launched a high profile attack on plans in Europe to regulate endocrine-disrupting chemicals have past or current ties to regulated industries. An investigation by Environmental Health News (EHN) revealed that of 18 toxicology journal editors who signed a controversial editorial, 17 have worked with or for the chemical, pharmaceutical, cosmetic, tobacco, pesticide or biotechnology industries.
Some have received research funds from industry associations, while some have served as industry consultants or advisers. EHN says the stakes are high in the controversy because it involves the European Union's strategy to regulate hormone-altering chemicals - the first attempt in the world to do so. The new rules would have sweeping, global ramifications because all companies that sell a variety of products in Europe would have to comply.
EHN says the editorial - published in 14 scientific journals from July to September - 'has created a firestorm in Europe among many scientists and regulators.' The paper, whose lead author is toxicologist Daniel Dietrich, criticised a leaked draft proposal by Europe's environment Directorate-General that recommends a precautionary approach, which could lead to the ban of some commonly used chemicals. Dietrich is a former adviser for an industry organisation funded by chemical, pesticide and oil companies that lobbies the European Commission on endocrine disruptors.
Other scientists immediately queried the writers' motives and undisclosed ties to industry, calling the editorial criticising a policy proposal an 'unusual initiative' for science journal editors. 'I was very surprised by the editorial. I thought it was emotional and non-specific, a mixture of science and policy, and with too many errors,' said Åke Bergman, an environmental chemistry researcher at Stockholm University.
A rebuttal, published in the journal Environmental Health, was signed by Bergman and 40 other scientists with no declared conflicts of interest. They wrote that they were 'concerned that the Dietrich editorial appears to be intended as an intervention designed to impact imminent decisions by the European Commission.' The editorial 'ignores scientific evidence and well-established principles of chemical risk assessment' related to endocrine-disrupting chemicals, they wrote. Another rebuttal signed by 104 scientists and editors of journals was published last week in the journal Endocrinology. Scientist Philippe Grandjean, Editor-in-Chief of the journal Environmental Health, has also urged Dietrich and colleagues to correct their 'lapse' of disclosure of competing interests in their editorial.
Policy decisions on Endocrine Disruptors should be based on science across disciplines: A Response to Dietrich et al and Editorial: An international Riposte to naysayers of Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals. Both in Endocrinology, published online ahead of print, 18 September 2013.
DR Dietrich and others. Scientifically unfounded precaution drives European Commission's recommendations on EDC regulation, while defying common sense, well-established science and risk assessment principles, Food and Chemical Toxicology, published online 5 July 2013.
P Grandjean and D Ozonoff. Transparency and translation of science in a modern world, Environmental Health, volume 12, number 70, 27 August 2013.