Endocrine disruptors should not only be assessed individually

Food safety
Six chemical substances possess endocrine disrupting effects - and especially combination effects when they are assessed together. Force Technology, DHI and researchers from DTU National Food Institute have performed risk assessments for the Danish Environmental Protection Agency.

Force Technology, together with DHI and researchers at the DTU National Food Institute, has evaluated six chemical substances for their risk of exerting endocrine disrupting effect.
The six substances were:

  • Butylhydroxyanisole (BHA),
  • Butylhydroxytoluene (BHT),
  • Butyl paraben,
  • Propyl paraben,
  • Octamethylcyclotetrasiloxane (D4),
  • Bisphenol A (BPA),

The risk assessment shows that exposure to the substances individually does not constitute a risk, but that the total exposure can be a cause for concern. This conclusion is based on recent exposure assessments for the six substances, as well as a hazard assessment of the substances' endocrine disrupting properties.

The hazard assessment shows evidence that all substances have endocrine disrupting effects. However, the evidence is stronger for some of the substances (D4, BPA, butylparaben, propylparaben) than for others (BHA and BHT).

Endocrine disruptors are suspected to contribute to the increasing incidence rate of, for example, genital malformations, reduced fertility, the development of obesity and diabetes and compromised brain development. The substances can be found in a wide range of consumer products, including foods, food contact materials and medicines.

It is not enough to evaluate chemicals individually

In recent years several major research projects at the DTU National Food Institute have shown that combination effects of endocrine disruptors exist, and that these should be taken into account when risk assessing chemicals.

If you only evaluate the substances one at a time, you will underestimate the overall risk of endocrine disrupting effects. Therefore, the risk of the combined exposure from several different chemical substances from several different sources was assessed in this project.

Threshold value or not?

In EU it has been discussed in recent years whether or not there is a threshold value for lower effect of endocrine disruptors. It is possible that, as with carcinogens, there is no lower limit for endocrine disrupting effects. The calculations in the report were therefore made both with and without assumption of threshold values.

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Facts about the project

  • The project was carried out in a collaboration between the DTU National Food Institute, DHI and Force Technology, and consisted of several sub-projects.
  • Force Technology performed chemical analyzes in a number of products for children and pregnant women, thus contributing to an updated exposure assessment for the six selected endocrine disruptors.
  • Researchers from the DTU National Food Institute were responsible for the hazard assessment and assessed the endocrine disrupting properties of the six substances on the basis of the scientific literature (as a project under the Center for Endocrine Disrupting Substances).
  • DHI compared this knowledge with the exposure assessments, which ultimately resulted in a risk assessment of the substances' endocrine disrupting effects, both individually and in combination.
  • FORCE Technology was responsible for the project management.