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Joint JRC-NIEHS Workshop on Low Dose Effects of Endocrine Active Chemicals

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Risk assessors, toxicologists, endocrinologists, and epidemiologists met on 11-13 September in Berlin to discuss whether the current data on low dose effects and non-monotonic dose response curves for endocrine active substances are sufficient to re-examine the ways in which chemicals are tested for endocrine disrupting properties and how risk to human health is managed.

Critical issues related to the identification and assessment of endocrine disrupters were discussed this week in Berlin in a workshop co-organised by the US National Institute for Environmental Health Sciences/NIH and the Joint Research Centre's Institute for Health and Consumer Protection

Speakers from the academic community laid out the principles of endocrinology and evidence for the existence of non-monotonic dose responses and effects at low doses (i.e. doses in the range of estimated environmental human exposure); speakers from the risk assessment community described current risk assessment approaches and considered the possible implications for risk assessment and approaches to toxicity testing if effects could be expected at environmentally relevant human exposure levels from substances acting via disruption of the endocrine system.

Most of the participants were in agreement that non-monotonic dose responses do occur and may be expected at some dose ranges for some substances, but the extent to which they might occur at so-called "low doses" was considered to be a separate issue. There was a suggestion that a definition of low dose would be helpful as it is currently used with different meanings in different contexts, and that there was also a need to carry out a practical assessment of the type of effects that may be considered adverse in the context of endocrine disruption.

Some recommendations included developing guidance on minimum information requirements for publishing studies investigating endocrine disrupting activity, finding mechanisms for sharing of raw data from experimental studies and creating a knowledge base for compiling findings of non-monotonic dose response relationships.

How current test guidelines might be augmented and evaluated with respect to detecting low-dose effects or non-monotonic dose responses was also discussed.

The meeting was hosted in Berlin by Germany's Federal Environment Agency and the Charité Medical University of Berlin. Other sponsors of the workshop included the Danish Ministry of the Environment, Danish Technical University's National Food Institute, French Agency for Food, Environmental and Occupational Health (ANSES) and the Oak Foundation.

This workshop follows up on the EU Conference on Endocrine Disruptors organised by the European Commission, Directorate-General for Environment in close collaboration with the JRC-IHCP in June 2012.

A report on the workshop is under preparation.

Photo: From left to right: Maurice Whelan (JRC, IHCP); Sharon Munn (JRC-IHCP) and Jerry Heindel (NIEHS), co-organisers of the workshop; Gilbert Schoenfelder (Charité Medical University of Berlin, Institute of Clinical Pharmacology and Toxicology), local organiser. Copyright EU 2012.

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