Every now and then, nasty little environmental surprises catch us humans unawares. Sometimes the surprises are not of our doing—volcanoes, earthquakes, and hailstorms for example. Increasingly, however, human actions are responsible for environmental surprises.
Use the suggested resources below, as well as others that you find through queried requests using search engines, to conduct research on one of the topics identified by your class. You should focus your research on finishing these three statements:
- Scientists are certain of the following:
- The following is expected or surmised but not supported by current scientific research:
- Current unknowns include:
Be sure to examine the accuracy of the information you find using the approach described in Evaluating Internet Resources.
Once you have finished your research, be prepared to list your main points (the finished statements) on a poster board or on the chalkboard. Pick a representative from your team to present your findings to the class. You should try to present your findings with as little jargon as possible and you should strive to communicate clearly and concisely.
The U.S. EPA has developed a report on Environmental Endocrine Disruption: An Effects Assessment and Analysis.
The Endocrine Disruptors site provides background information on the endocrine system, endocrine disruptors, what research is being done, and international strategies to deal with the issue.
Research on Endocrine Disruptions is focused on providing a better understanding of the effects, exposure, assessment, and risk management of endocrine disruptors; determining the extent of the impact of endocrine disruptors on humans, wildlife, and the environment; and supporting EPA's screening and testing program.
The Tulane and Xavier Universities' Center for Bioenvironmental Research hosts the e.hormone site. In addition to good general definitions of endocrine disruptors, this site also has a "Featured Science" section, with updates on recent research in the field.
The World Wildlife Fund's site on Problems with toxics: EDC's reviews the state of the science, recent findings, and low dose research findings.
Our Stolen Future concentrates on environmental health links and updates, with emphasis on endocrine disruptors. This site also lists a variety of links to recent research findings.
Information and Databases
Pesticides Database provides current toxicity and regulatory information for insecticides, herbicides, and other pesticides.
Office of Health Assessment and Translation has abundant information on chemicals and risk.
Chemicals to Avoid When You're Pregnant or Breastfeeding by the Natural Resources Defense Council provides a guide to choosing products that are safe for pregnant and breastfeeding women.
Now is the time to consider the benefits and risks associated with the choices that society and individuals make. Discuss with your team members the concepts described below.
In deciding among alternatives, a major question is who will receive the benefits and who will bear the costs. In general, the more remote the consequences of a personal or social decision, the harder it usually is to take these consequences into account in considering alternatives. It is particularly hard if the person or group is not "at the table" when the alternatives are being discussed. For example, how might the decision process proceed if most of the benefits go to the present generation in the United States, and most of the costs are borne by future generations, or people from other lands? Remember that the decisions of one generation both provide and limit the range of the possibilities open to the next generation.
After you have discussed these concepts, think about how your understanding of the endocrine disruption theory relates to individual and social decision making about chemicals. Click on one of the links below to go to the document assigned to your team by your teacher:
- The Wingspread Consensus Statement is a summary of several scientists' opinions on what we know and what we need to know in relation to the endocrine disruption theory.
- Endocrine Active Chemicals is an industry perspective on what is known and unknown for the endocrine disruption theory.
After you have read the document, develop a one-page position paper that responds to the document. Select one of your team members to present the paper to the class.
This esheet is a part of the Endocrine Disruptors lesson.