Old Ideas, Old Science Cripple Federal Regulation

This article is one in a series. For the other articles, please see:  INDEX: “Why You Can’t Trust Government Science”

See also this article from the NIH publication, Environmental Health Perspectives: Why Public Health Agencies Cannot Depend on Good Laboratory Practices as a Criterion for Selecting Data


Once a scientific concept becomes entrenched, it has a weighty dogmatic inertia that shuns the acceptance of newer ideas. The concepts that the Sun revolved around the Earth and cholera was caused by miasmic vapors from low-lying areas were once accepted as truth and those who thought otherwise were soundly abused.

The idea that diseases could be caused by tiny organisms invisible to the human eye was once dismissed by the scientific establishment as nonsense. Likewise, the idea that there could be smaller disease-causing particles also met with scorn (hello viruses!).

In the same sort of way, the scientific establishment rejected the notion that the statistics of epidemiology could alert scientists to the causes of illness an  direct research toward the cures. But epidemiology has played a key roles in helping AIDS researchers find the cause and stopped a deadly cholera in London in 1854. See Associations Don’t Count for a bit more detail on those.

Today’s Science Collides With Obsolete Dogma

But, today — just like the 1990s or the 1850s — there are scientists who cannot let go of outmoded dogma. This is especially true of the corporate scientists, private labs, and government regulators who have grown comfortable with the old science and its old dogmas.

The fact that corporations and private labs have learned how to manipulate the old dogmas to their own advantage makes them even less willing to accept new ideas even if the results make for bad public health.

Today’s defenders of toxicological dogma defend the notion that that every chemical has an absolute threshold level below which it is safe and healthy (The Dose Is The Poison (Not!). The new science of hormone disruptors has proven that science wrong and out of date.

New Science Reveals Hormone Disruptor Effects

Hormone-disrupting chemicals  can act in act in incredibly small small concentrations and cause adverse effects often that that may take years to develop and contribute to existing diseases such as cancer, Type 2 diabetes and developmental effects.

Because those are often very different from the usual toxic effects measured by federal guidelines, they require new techniques and experiment designs.

Those newer techniques involve measuring things that could not be measured until recently such as:

  • Effects on molecular signaling inside cells, and
  • Epigenetics (changes in the operations of genes that act like mutations but are not actually alterations in the DNA sequence).

Federal Standards Set With Science That Is Half A Century Behind On Hormone Disruptors

Regrettably, federal testing protocols have not changed a lot since the 1950s. That means that federal regulators as well as corporate and private lab scientists continue to rely upon obsolete and inappropriate observations and measurements of lab animals and their tissues.

Regulators have set standards based on old science that does not account for the properties of low doses of hormone disruptors. This is like trying to manage diseases solely with the science of bacteria at a time when viruses are becoming better known for their hazards.

This means that toxicologists educated in the old techniques and used to relying upon them, have trouble recognizing these new types of adverse effects from hormone disruptors that are active at the molecular level. If these old-dogma scientists  can’t spot damage through the sort of gross anatomy changes that can be seen with the naked eye or a standard optical microscope, it doesn’t exist or it doesn’t matter for them .

Sadly, people who have clung to thew old dogmas are the ones who have written the rules and the testing protocols that make sure that regulatory science stays a half century behind. And the corporate and private lab scientists have grown comfortable in how they can manipulate those old tests in order to get the sorts of guaranteed test results that lead to regulatory approval.

The rigidity of testing protocols — promoted by corporations and old-line toxicologists — has suppressed information about the harmful effects of hormone-disrupting stealth chemicals.

What’s Wrong With Federal Protocols?

The damage from hormone disruptors that interfere with your endocrine system has been easy to conceal because laws and regulations are written — often in ways dictated by industry —  to require:

  • an immediate,
  • visible,
  • specifically and previously defined harm
  • connected to a single chemical tested in isolation from all other chemicals.

In other words, the legal and regulatory system as it exists today means that to be found “guilty” it must be proven that a specific chemical from a specific company caused a specific illness or death in a specific person.

Combination Effect Testing Not Required, Not Allowed

Additionally, chemicals are not required to be tested in combination with other chemicals that are frequently found in your body. So, even though the Centers for Disease Control has shown that you and all other Americans are contaminated by constant levels of BPA, phthalates, flame retardants, pesticides and scores of other environmental chemicals, each chemical is tested in isolation.

Yet, the federal government does not require — and does not allow — combination effects to be considered in the regulatory approval process.

What Sort Of New Tests Are Required?

Suspected hormone disruptors should be tested using the same tests that pharmaceutical companies use to find new drugs. In other words, the same tests that can find cures can also find adverse effects.

For example, the procedures to test the effects of a chemical on breast cancer cells is relatively common. One of the most common test looks for “estrogenic action” — the ability of a chemical to act like estrogen. (Why Is “Estrogenic Action” Important?)

This is important because estrogen causes breast cancer cells to grow like crazy.

Pharmaceutical researchers looking for a new breast cancer cure will reject chemicals if they are estrogenic. But they look favorably on a chemical that prevents breast cancer cells from growing. Those may be a cure.

Many stealth chemicals like BPA and phthalates are also estrogenic: they make breast cancer cells grow.

In addition to breast cancer, estrogenic action can also affect male fertility and the development of embryos and fetuses. Estrogen is also a promoter of obesity.  See BPA Found to Activate Breast Cancer Cells and Interfere with Treatment as a one of many examples.

The Developing Field Of Epigenetics

However, many chemicals can effect the functioning of a gene even if it does not change the underlying DNA sequence. This effect is called “epigenetics.”

Chemicals with epigenetic effects can cause a gene to shut down or to overproduce. Epigenetic effects have basically the same effect as a mutation.

Some epigenetic effects are reversed when a chemical is no longer present. Other epigenetic effects can last a lifetime and others can be passed along to future generations.

Chemicals Leave Epigenetic “Fingerprints.”

While epigenetics is still a rapidly developing field, legitimate scientists have been able to determine that specific chemicals leave behind a specific and identifiable pattern of gene regulation changes.

Tests are available, for example, to determine if a person has ever been a cigarette smoker because of epigenetic fingerprints that only tobacco smoke can cause. Those fingerprints last a lifetime.

Significantly, many of those changes are the exact same as those found in cancer and other diseases.

Likewise, hormone disruptors like BPA, phthalates, fire retardants, many pesticides can cause the exact same epigenetic changes as those that are factors in cancer, birth and developmental effects, Alzheimers.

And yet: when those connections are documented by respected, peer-reviewed, published studies reported by independent scientists with no conflicts of interest, they are dismissed as irrelevant by the old boys in corporations, pay-for-play laboratories and in regulatory agencies.

Why? Because epigenetic profiles can show that a specific chemical can have the same specific effect in a specific individual as is found in a specific deadly disease like cancer.

Why Do Government & Corporations Reject Modern Tests?

Why are the same tests that can discover new life-saving cures rejected by the government and corporations when independent labs?

Why has no government regulatory agency has ever banned a chemical for its estrogenic action. In fact, no plastics maker or other manufacturer of chemicals has ever been required to test its chemicals for estrogenic action or any other kind of molecular-level damage.

It’s partly through the inability to understand the new science. But it is mostly because the “old corporate science boys” are terrified. The new tests are hard to manipulate, hard to “game,” and they can establish harm at the molecular level between a specific chemical and a specific adverse effect.

And that advances the forensic proof of chemical harm much closer to the chemical manufacturers.

Removing the Obsolescence Built Into Federal And Corporate Testing

According to a recent peer-reviewed journal article, “Risk assessment׳s insensitive toxicity testing may cause it to fail:”  Manufacturers onlytest close-to-poisonous doses for chronic exposures,  but other effects are ignored, “such as not testing disease latency.”

“This and the fact that academic investigators will not be constrained by such artificial methods [like federal protocols, has] created a de facto total ban of academia׳s diverse and sensitive toxicity tests from most risk assessment.”

Despite federal and corporate resistance to the use of university and academic research, the article concludes there is no valid reason for the ban on modern testing:

“There are abundant modern experimental methods (and rigorous epidemiology), and an existing systematic review system, to at long last allow academia׳s toxicity studies to be used in most risk assessments.”

This Article Is Continued At: Federal Protocols Offer Many Opportunities To Bias Science

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