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BOOK REVIEW: ARE YOU AN ADVOCATE, TACIT SUPPORTER, CRITICAL SKEPTIC, OR SILENT SKEPTIC?
Kavlock, R J. BOOK REVIEW: ARE YOU AN ADVOCATE, TACIT SUPPORTER, CRITICAL SKEPTIC, OR SILENT SKEPTIC? TRENDS IN ENDOCRINOLOGY AND METABOLISM 12(1):40-41, (2001).
This is a book review
"Silent Sperm," "You're not half the man your grandfather was," "Assault on the Male," "Gender Benders,"-perhaps no other public health concern has given rise to the number of memorable sound bites than has the issue of whether environmental contaminants are causing adverse health effects in humans and wildlife by altering the function of the endocrine system. Having been very close to the center of debate on the implications of the endocrine disruptor hypothesis throughout the 1990s (I chaired a major international workshop that defined research needs in 1995 and subsequently lead development of the US research strategy), I have anticipated an objective historical analysis for some time. In Hormonal Chaos, Sheldon Krimsky partially satisfies my need as he describes the emergence of the hypothesis largely through the efforts, if not eye, of Theo Colborn. Theo Colborn was a late arriving environmental scientist. having received her from the University of Wisconsin in 1985 at the age of 58. By bringing together multi-disciplinary groups of scientists at so called "Wingspread Conferences," Colborn prompted the condensation of knowledge in areas of reproductive, neurological, and immunological effects, wildlife biology and exposure assessment relative to the ability of chemicals present in the environment to act as hormones and therefore induce a variety of effects such as birth defects, learning deficits and cancer. Similar to previous environmental health issues where the hazard is partially understood, but the true risks relatively are not, the endocrine disruptor hypothesis has spawned considerable news coverage and scientific debate. Krimsky frames his task in a larger public health context, where there is an inevitable clash between the need to be protective of public health, but where the evidence is seldom conclusive to either decide a risk is unacceptable, or judge it to be of immediate concern. The last several decades of the century are replete with similar stories cyclamates, Bendectin, cellular phone use, electric power lines) but as noted in the book, all of these pale in comparison to the potential breadth of the endocrine disruptor hypothesis. Although Krimsky¿s tendency to be an advocate, a term he posits to describe one of the four types of scientific accountability and responsibility, at times clouds his evaluation of the evidence, the book is nonetheless a relatively balanced documentary. Those very close to the field will likely find fault with certain segments of the text (and I thought the documentation of statements tended to be spotty), but those with a general interest in environmental health protection, or those wishing to see how science is translated in regulatory policy, will enjoy the reading.
Record Details:Record Type: DOCUMENT (JOURNAL/PEER REVIEWED JOURNAL)
Organization:U.S. ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY
OFFICE OF RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT
NATIONAL HEALTH AND ENVIRONMENTAL EFFECTS RESEARCH LABORATORY
REPRODUCTIVE TOXICOLOGY DIVISION