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Disrupting pathways : Endocrine disruptors and the public expertise of health and environmental problems - 14-15 décembre 2012

Supported by the French National Research Program for Endocrine Disruptors (PNRPE)

In the past twenty years endocrine disurptors, the category as well as specific substances, have acquired a peculiar visibility both as targets for research and as objects of political debates. Issues like the impact of pesticides on the health of farmers, consumers and wild animals, the long term effect of persistant pollutants like PCBs which seems impossible to eliminate, the relations of xenostrogens to declining fertility and reproductive cancer incidence in humans, or the peculiar sensitivity of fetuses and developing organisms to chemicals mimicking the structures and roles of hormones are now discussed through an increasing number of publications and affairs perfectly illlustrated with the current debates on the need for a complete ban of Bisphenol A.

The processes, which have led to this situation and the recognition of what may be called an endocrine disruptors paradigm linking in unprecedented ways research, expertise, regulation, and social mobilizations - producing knowledge at the crossroad of reproductive medicine, toxicology, ecology, epidemiology and the social sciences - are complex and far from self-evident.

In the mid 1990s, the importance of man-made and man-realesed chemicals and pollutants modifying endocrine/reproductive functions in animals and humans was a motive of serious concern in small circles of experts, often associated with environmental, feminist or public health activism. It was a US phenomenon in the first place. A quarter of century later it is no longer possible to locate in such a precise manner the actors of endocrine disruptors networks. They are in laboratories, conservatories, and hospital services but also in the medias, health or environmental regulatory agencies, as well as in political institutions. They are present in the United States, Europe and the so-called emerging countries. In parallel with its diffusion, its contested but significant acceptance, the endocrine disruptor paradigm has crystalized a body of knowledge challenging traditional toxicology and views of adverse effects ; a body focusing on low doses, multiple exposure, cumulative effects and sensibility of development periods.

The aim of this workshop is to explore the advent of this endocrine disruptors paradigm from the 70s onward, i.e. to understand how specific problems and substances have been redefined to become manifestation of endocrine disruption, to understand the dynamics of social movements and their role in the public expertise of these processes, to understand the transformation of regulation, to explore the impact the debates on endocrine disruptions have had on specific fields and disciplines in scientific research. This workshop is an element in a more general research project of the trajectory of endocrine disruptors as scientific and political entities, which seeks to address both their generalization and the deep differences in their modes of existence in Europe, especially in France, and in the United States.