The potential health and ecological effects of endocrine disrupting chemicals has become a high visibility environmental issue. The 1990s have witnessed a growing concern, both on the part of the scientific community and the public, that environmental chemicals may be causing widespread effects in humans and in a variety of fish and wildlife species. This growing concern led the Committee on the Environment and Natural Resources (CENR) of the National Science and Technology Council to identify the endocrine disrupter issue as a major research initiative in early 1995 and subsequently establish an ad hoc Working Group on Endocrine Disrupters. The objectives of the working group are to 1) develop a planning framework for federal research related to human and ecological health effects of endocrine disrupting chemicals; 2) conduct an inventory of ongoing federal research programs; and 3) identify research gaps and develop a coordinated interagency plan to address priority research needs. This communication summarizes the activities of the federal government in defining a common framework for planning an endocrine disrupter research program and in assessing the status of the current effort. After developing the research framework and compiling an inventory of active research projects supported by the federal government in fiscal year 1996, the CENR working group evaluated the current federal effort by comparing the ongoing activities with the research needs identified in the framework. The analysis showed that the federal government supports considerable research on human health effects, ecological effects, and exposure assessment, with a predominance of activity occurring under human health effects. The analysis also indicates that studies on reproductive development and carcinogenesis are more prevalent than studies on neurotoxicity and immunotoxicity, that mammals (mostly laboratory animals) are the main species under study, and that chlorinated dibenzodioxins and polychlorinated biphenyls are the most commonly studied chemical classes. Comparison of the inventory with the research needs should allow identification of underrepresented research areas in need of attention.
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The US federal framework for research on endocrine disrupters and an analysis of research programs supported during fiscal year 1996