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EMF Studies

04 December 2016

Let's Stop the Manipulation of Science

Let’s stop the manipulation of science
Le Monde, 29 November 2016

Around a hundred scientists ask Europe and the international community to act against endocrine disrupting chemicals. They condemn the use of strategies for manufacturing doubt employed by industries in the climate change battle.

For decades now, science has come under attack whenever its discoveries raised questions about commercial activities and vested interests. Scientific evidence has been willfully distorted by individuals denying the science and actors sponsored by industry interests creating the false impression of a controversy. This manufacturing of doubt has delayed protective actions, with dangerous consequences for the health of people and the environment.

The “manufacturers of doubt” work across several areas, including the tobacco and petrochemical industries, and the agro-chemical sector. The petrochemical industry alone is the source of thousands of toxic chemicals and contributes to the massive increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide that drives climate change.

The battle for climate protection entered a new era with the 2015 Paris Agreement, bitterly opposed by skeptics despite widespread consensus among climate scientists committed to working for the public interest. A similar battle is raging over the need to reduce exposures to endocrine disrupting chemicals. The European Commission is about to implement the first regulation for endocrine disruptors in the world. While many other governments have also expressed concern about endocrine disruptors, regulations for these chemicals are missing altogether.

Never before have we faced a higher burden of hormonal diseases, such as cancers of the breast, testes, ovaries and prostate, compromised brain development, diabetes, obesity, non-descending testes, malformations of the penis, and poor semen quality. The overwhelming majority of scientists actively engaged in researching the causes of these worrying health trends agree that several factors are involved, among them chemicals capable of interfering with our hormone systems.

Several learned scientific societies have pointed out that these chemicals, called endocrine disruptors, pose a global health threat. Among them are flame retardants in furniture and electronic equipment, plasticisers in plastic items and in personal care products, and pesticides found as residues in our food. They can interfere with normal hormones during critical periods of development, in pregnancy or in puberty, when our bodies are particularly sensitive.

It is not possible to deal with this growing disease burden by providing better medical treatments, partly because there is no treatment, partly because the health effects are irreparable. We also have limited options to reduce our personal exposures by avoiding certain consumer items. Most endocrine disruptors reach our bodies via food that is contaminated with these chemicals.

A key option for stemming the rise of hormonal diseases is by preventing chemical exposures through more effective regulation. But plans to draw up such regulations in the European Union (EU) are opposed vigorously by scientists with strong links to industrial interests, leading to the appearance of a lack of scientific consensus where no scientific controversy exists. The same strategy was used by the tobacco industry, and it has contaminated the debate, confused the public and undermined efforts by politicians and decision makers to develop and adopt more effective regulations.

Both the debates on climate change and endocrine disruptors have suffered from the distortion of the evidence by industrially sponsored actors.

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