About this Research Topic
The issue of “endocrine disruption” has gained a great deal of attention in the scientific, political, and popular arenas, globally. Deep divides exist on how to interpret the scientific evidence for endocrine disruption with regard to regulatory policy that aims to protect the environment and human health. One only needs to look to the debates that continue to ensue in the European Union and its endocrine disruption policy to understand that there is a chasm among the scientific community in interpretation of the data for regulatory decisions. There is a wide spectrum of views on this issue, and unfortunately participants in the conversation have become polarized in their views with little opportunity to have a serious scientific debate with respect to regulatory policy setting. In addition, the uniqueness of the debate around endocrine disruption is not just about the scientific data and its interpretation (as well as reliability and reproducibility) but also various components of conflict of interest and bias. In a recent article, the media targeted a group of scientists with contracts and consulting agreements with industry as having conflict of interest and therefore, biased in their “interpretations”. There has been so much mudslinging which makes it difficult to have constructive dialogues across the various stakeholders.
There are many components to regulatory decision making to set policy, but the foundation of this process has to be the scientific evidence and its intended use. For the various stakeholders to have a constructive discussion, there needs to be a shared understanding of the problem at hand. Part of the reason for such discord among the various stakeholders is that they have defined the “problem” in different ways. Traditionally, basic science identifies hazards of chemical exposures. Risk assessment science applies not only those hazards identified in basic science but also must consider exposure to the chemicals. Therefore, the two groups are approaching the “problem” from different perspectives. Neither are wrong, however, a shared understanding of the fundamental differences in these approaches as an initial step is paramount for these groups to have constructive discussions.
The aim of this Research Topic is to understand and communicate the similarities and differences in regulatory toxicology and basic science research and the underlying issues of reliability and reproducibility as well as how conflict of interest and bias can play a role in decision making. There are distinct differences in these disciplines but all offer experimental data that will better inform hazard and risk characterization, specifically in the context of regulatory and policy decisions.
Keywords: Endocrine disruption, regulatory toxicology, risk assessment, conflict of interest, chemical exposure
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