Fact-Checking CNN: Is There Really “Zero Evidence” of the Effect of Atrazine on Human Sexual Development?

James Lyons Weiler | 14 July 2023

Should Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. Stop Talking about EDCs and their potential effects on children? No. We should all be talking about them.

Today (July 14th), CNN reported that Dr. Andrea Gore, professor of pharmacology and toxicology at University of Texas at Austin, believes Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. should not be talking about endocrine disrupting chemicals like Atrazine due to “zero evidence” of their impact on human sexual development.

CNN quoted Gore in the following context:

“Atrazine, one of the most common herbicides, is an endocrine disruptor, though Gore said there is no link between these chemicals and gender and sexuality in humans.

‘I don’t think people should be making statements about the relationship between environmental chemicals and changes in sexuality when there’s zero evidence,’ she said.”

The problem is there is not zero evidence. Studies have shown early onset of menarche in girls.

And Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals (EDCs) are not just Atrazine. They include many others. Bisphenol A. Phalates. Their sources are myriad, not just the water. Toys. Make-up (see the Hermosa study by Harley et al., 2016). They confound attempts for couples to become pregnant (Cabry et al., 2020).

See additional references below and watch my EDC lecture.

In 2013, the problem was recognized to be important enough to be discussed by a joint UNEP/WHO report, now no longer available on either organization’s website

WHO. (2013). WHO. Effects of Human Exposure to Hormone-Disrupting Chemicals Examined in Landmark UN Report. The original link is a 404: https://apps.who.int/mediacentre/news/releases/2013/hormone_disrupting_20130219/en/index.html

The Wayback Machine has a copy:


You can watch my entire lecture on Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals from the on-demand course “Environmental Toxicology: Ecosystem and Human Health”

Environmental Toxicology (ipak-edu.org)

Here’s a review that found that

“In girls, there have been mixed results, with some exposures being associated with earlier timing of puberty, and some with later puberty.

In boys, prepubertal exposures to non-dioxin-like PCBs accelerate puberty while levels of insecticides, dioxin-like compounds, organochlorine pesticides, and lead delay puberty.”

Greenspan LC, Lee MM. Endocrine disrupters and pubertal timing. Curr Opin Endocrinol Diabetes Obes. 2018 Feb;25(1):49-54. doi: 10.1097/MED.0000000000000377. PMID: 29135489; PMCID: PMC6009831.

Here’s a study that found that atrazine levels are associated with early puberty in female humans, which we now know is early onset but late maturity:

Namulanda G, Taylor E, Maisonet M, Boyd Barr D, Flanders WD, Olson D, Qualters JR, Vena J, Northstone K, Naeher L. In utero exposure to atrazine analytes and early menarche in the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children Cohort. Environ Res. 2017 Jul;156:420-425. doi: 10.1016/j.envres.2017.04.004. Epub 2017 Apr 12. PMID: 28410519; PMCID: PMC5679269.

See our On-Demand Courses

Should RFK Jr. stop talking about EDCs including Atrazine? I don’t think so.

I’m marking CNN’s coverage: FALSE

Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals – Some Key References

Bao, W., Liu, B., Rong, S., Dai, S. Y., Trasande, L., & Lehmler, H.-J. (2020). Association between bisphenol A exposure and risk of all-cause and cause-specific mortality in US adults. JAMA Network Open3(8), e2011620. https://doi.org/10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2020.11620

The study featured in the journal article talks about the association between mortality and exposure to Bisphenol A, a ubiquitous EDC, results indicating that there is a correlation with conditions such as cancer and cardiovascular diseases.

Bergman, Å., Heindel, J., Jobling, S., Kidd, K., & Zoeller, R. T. (2012). State-of-the-science of endocrine disrupting chemicals, 2012. Toxicology Letters211, S3. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.toxlet.2012.03.020

Cabry, R., Merviel, P., Madkour, A., Lefranc, E., Scheffler, F., Desailloud, R., Bach, V., & Benkhalifa, M. (2020). The impact of endocrine disruptor chemicals on oocyte/embryo and clinical outcomes in IVF. Endocrine Connections9(6), R134–R142. https://doi.org/10.1530/ec-20-0135

The article discusses the severe impacts of EDCs on fertility, focusing on the negative outcomes on In Vitro fertilization.

The article provides information about the probable association between exposure to endocrine disrupting chemicals and rates of still births.

Couderq, S., Leemans, M., & Fini, J.-B. (2020). Testing for thyroid hormone disruptors, a review of non-mammalian in vivo models. Molecular and Cellular Endocrinology508, 110779. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.mce.2020.110779

Diamanti-Kandarakis, E., Bourguignon, J.-P., Giudice, L. C., Hauser, R., Prins, G. S., Soto, A. M., Zoeller, R. T., & Gore, A. C. (2009a). Endocrine-Disrupting chemicals: An endocrine society scientific statement. Endocrine Reviews30(4), 293–342. https://doi.org/10.1210/er.2009-0002

The article investigates the evidence which shows that exposure to EDCs leads to a broad range of health problems to both males and females, including infertility, cancer, cardiovascular diseases, and obesity.

Edginton, A. N., & Ritter, L. (2009). Predicting Plasma Concentrations of Bisphenol A in Children Younger Than 2 Years of Age after Typical Feeding Schedules, using a Physiologically Based Toxicokinetic Model. Environmental Health Perspectives117(4), 645–652. https://doi.org/10.1289/ehp.0800073

The study explores the potential exposure of children under the age of two years due to the consumption of food packaged in plastics that may contain the toxicant Bisphenol A (BPA).

Gauderat, G., Picard-Hagen, N., Toutain, P.-L., Servien, R., Viguié, C., Puel, S., Lacroix, M. Z., Corbel, T., Bousquet-Melou, A., & Gayrard, V. (2017). Prediction of human prenatal exposure to bisphenol A and bisphenol A glucuronide from an ovine semi-physiological toxicokinetic model. Scientific Reports7(1). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-017-15646-5

Hamid, N., Junaid, M., & Pei, D.-S. (2021). Combined toxicity of endocrine-disrupting chemicals: A review. Ecotoxicology and Environmental Safety215, 112136. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ecoenv.2021.112136

The scope of the study featured in the journal article discusses the state of literature that examines the combined toxicity of endocrine disrupting compounds.

Hammer, K. C., Veiga, A., & Mahalingaiah, S. (2020). Environmental toxicant exposure and menstrual cycle length. Current Opinion in Endocrinology, Diabetes & Obesity27(6), 373–379. https://doi.org/10.1097/med.0000000000000579

Harley, K. G., Kogut, K., Madrigal, D. S., Cardenas, M., Vera, I. A., Meza-Alfaro, G., She, J., Gavin, Q., Zahedi, R., Bradman, A., Eskenazi, B., & Parra, K. L. (2016). Reducing phthalate, paraben, and phenol exposure from personal care products in adolescent girls: Findings from the HERMOSA intervention study. Environmental Health Perspectives124(10), 1600–1607. https://doi.org/10.1289/ehp.1510514

https://www.drnasha.com\/author\/kristen-dorn\/#author. (2020, July 29). The top 12 endocrine disruptors and how to avoid them. Dr. Nasha | MASTER THE METABOLIC APPROACH TO CANCER. https://www.drnasha.com/2020/07/29/the-top-12-endocrine-disruptors-and-how-to-avoid-them/

The article gives a small background of endocrine disruptive compounds, and then goes on to list 12 of the most common EDCs, their common sources, and how to avoid exposure.

Hu, L.-L., Zhou, X., Zhang, H.-L., Wu, L.-L., Tang, L.-S., Chen, L.-L., & Duan, J.-L. (2018a). Exposure to podophyllotoxin inhibits oocyte meiosis by disturbing meiotic spindle formation. Scientific Reports8(1). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-018-28544-1

The paper discusses the negative impacts of podophullotoxin on embryos and the ooocyte formation process since it disrupts the spindle formation process of the meiosis process.

Johnson, S., Saikia, N., & Sahu, R. (2011). Phthalates in toys available in Indian market. Bulletin of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology86(6), 621–626. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00128-011-0263-6

Kundakovic, M., Gudsnuk, K., Franks, B., Madrid, J., Miller, R. L., Perera, F. P., & Champagne, F. A. (2013). Sex-specific epigenetic disruption and behavioral changes following low-dose in utero bisphenol A exposure. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences110(24), 9956–9961. https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1214056110

The study investigates the possible impacts on the brain functioning in terms of sexual behavior and differentiation after in-utero exposure to Bisphenol A.

La Merrill, M. A., Vandenberg, L. N., Smith, M. T., Goodson, W., Browne, P., Patisaul, H. B., Guyton, K. Z., Kortenkamp, A., Cogliano, V. J., Woodruff, T. J., Rieswijk, L., Sone, H., Korach, K. S., Gore, A. C., Zeise, L., & Zoeller, R. T. (2019). Consensus on the key characteristics of endocrine-disrupting chemicals as a basis for hazard identification. Nature Reviews Endocrinology16(1), 45–57. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41574-019-0273-8

The paper discusses the scholarly consensus in the literature about the characteristics of endocrine disruptive compounds as a way of identifying hazards.

Liu, J., Zhang, L., Lu, G., Jiang, R., Yan, Z., & Li, Y. (2021). Occurrence, toxicity and ecological risk of Bisphenol A analogues in aquatic environment – A review. Ecotoxicology and Environmental Safety208, 111481. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ecoenv.2020.111481

Maggio, A. G., Shu, H. T., Laufer, B. I., Hwang, H., Bi, C., Lai, Y., LaSalle, J. M., & Hu, V. W. (2021). Impact of exposures to persistent endocrine disrupting compounds on the sperm methylome in regions associated with neurodevelopmental disorders. Research Square Platform LLC. http://dx.doi.org/10.21203/rs.3.rs-297668/v1

Mao, W., Song, Y., Sui, H., Cao, P., & Liu, Z. (2019). Analysis of individual and combined estrogenic effects of bisphenol, nonylphenol and diethylstilbestrol in immature rats with mathematical models. Environmental Health and Preventive Medicine24(1). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12199-019-0789-5

National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. (2017, July 18). Evaluating low-dose toxicity from endocrine active chemicals: New report lays out strategy to evaluate evidence of adverse human health effects from endocrine-disrupting chemicals at low doses. ScienceDaily. https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/07/170718152449.htm

Piazza, M. J., & Urbanetz, A. A. (2019). Environmental toxins and the impact of other endocrine disrupting chemicals in women’s reproductive health. JBRA Assisted Reproduction. https://doi.org/10.5935/1518-0557.20190016

Polinski, K. J., Dabelea, D., Hamman, R. F., Adgate, J. L., Calafat, A. M., Ye, X., & Starling, A. P. (2018). Distribution and predictors of urinary concentrations of phthalate metabolites and phenols among pregnant women in the Healthy Start Study. Environmental Research162, 308–317. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.envres.2018.01.025

Purdel, C., Ilie, M., & Margina, D. (2015). The involvement of environmental endocrine-disrupting chemicals in type 2 diabetes mellitus development. In Treatment of Type 2 Diabetes. InTech. http://dx.doi.org/10.5772/59110

Quinnies, K. M., Harris, E. P., Snyder, R. W., Sumner, S. S., & Rissman, E. F. (2017). Direct and transgenerational effects of low doses of perinatal di-(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate (DEHP) on social behaviors in mice. PLOS ONE12(2), e0171977. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0171977

Robles-Matos, N., Artis, T., Simmons, R. A., & Bartolomei, M. S. (2021). Environmental exposure to endocrine disrupting chemicals influences genomic imprinting, growth, and metabolism. Genes12(8), 1153. https://doi.org/10.3390/genes12081153

Roncati, L., Piscioli, F., & Pusiol, T. (2016). The endocrine disrupting chemicals as possible stillbirth contributors. American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology215(4), 532–533. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ajog.2016.05.031

Tokumoto, T., Tokumoto, M., & Nagahama, Y. (2005). Induction and inhibition of oocyte maturation by EDCs in zebrafish. Reproductive Biology and Endocrinology3(1). https://doi.org/10.1186/1477-7827-3-69

The paper talks about how oocyte maturation process can be disrupted by the presence of endocrine disrupting compounds, either through inhibition or induction.

Trasande, L., & Blumberg, B. (2017). Endocrine disruptors as obesogens. In Contemporary Endocrinology (pp. 243–253). Springer International Publishing. http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-68192-4_14

Watson, R. (2016). European Commission tables scientific criteria for endocrine disruptors. BMJ, i3459. https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.i3459

The paper is a press release from the European Commission which provides a science-based approach to identifying endocrine disruptive compounds in biochemicals and pesticides.

WHO. (2013). WHO. Effects of Human Exposure to Hormone-Disrupting Chemicals Examined in Landmark UN Report. https://apps.who.int/mediacentre/news/releases/2013/hormone_disrupting_20130219/en/index.html



Leave a Reply