A report released this week by the Endocrine Society states that the list of health problems that scientists can confidently link to exposure to hormone-disrupting chemicals has grown to include: diabetes, cardiovascular disease, obesity, reproductive and developmental problems, thyroid impairment, certain reproductive cancers, and neurodevelopmental problems such as decreased IQ. This statement (report) is based on the summaries of 1300 studies on endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs), and it also adds support to the idea that even minute doses of these chemicals can interfere with the activity of natural hormones, which play a major role in regulating physiology and behavior. The statement also stated that most industrial chemicals released into the environment—numbering in the tens of thousands—have never been tested for endocrine-disrupting potential. EDCs include such common chemicals as bisphenol A (BPA), phthalates, parabens, some pesticides (e.g., atrazine), flame retardants, some persistent organic pollutants, and dioxins.
Where are endocrine disruptors found? People are exposed to chemicals with estrogenic effects in their everyday life, because endocrine disrupting chemicals are found in low doses in thousands of products. Many plastic products, including those advertised as "BPA free", have been found to leach endocrine-disrupting chemicals (the substitute chemicals are no better than BPA, and may be worse). Examples: plastic food containers which then leach into foods, linings of metal beverage, formula, and food cans, soft plastic toys, dental sealants, consumer goods, receipts, personal care products that contain parabens or phthalates (e.g., found in lotions,sunscreens, fragrances), household products (such as cleaning products, vinyl shower curtains) , cars (that new car smell in car interiors), etc. Americans love plastics, but there is a serious human health cost.
NOTE: To minimize EDC exposure - try to avoid plastic food and beverage containers. Instead try to use glass, stainless steel, or ceramics. Eat as many unprocessed and fresh foods as possible. Use cloth shower curtains. Read labels and avoid BPA, phthalates, parabens. Avoid fragrances. Don't use or buy non-stick pans, stain and water-resistant coatings on clothing, furniture and carpets. When buying new furniture, check that it doesn't have added fire retardants.
Of course any public discussion of the harms from endocrine disrupting chemicals, as well as the newly released Endocrine Society report, is drawing sharp criticisms from the chemical industry (especially the American Chemistry Council, the largest trade group for the chemicals industry). Of course. We all know that the lobbying efforts by the chemical industry to suppress and deny the evidence of harm to humans from EDCs has been and will continue to be massive. Sadly, but at this point EDCs are found in almost everyone on earth. More about the report, from Science Daily:
Emerging evidence ties endocrine-disrupting chemical (EDC) exposure to two of the biggest public health threats facing society -- diabetes and obesity. EDCs contribute to health problems by mimicking, blocking or otherwise interfering with the body's natural hormones. By hijacking the body's chemical messengers, EDCs can alter the way cells develop and grow. Known EDCs include bisphenol A (BPA) found in food can linings and cash register receipts, phthalates found in plastics and cosmetics, flame retardants and pesticides. The chemicals are so common that nearly every person on Earth has been exposed to one or more.
"The evidence is more definitive than ever before -- EDCs disrupt hormones in a manner that harms human health," said Andrea C. Gore, Professor and Vacek Chair of Pharmacology at the University of Texas at Austin and chair of the task force that developed the statement. "Hundreds of studies are pointing to the same conclusion, whether they are long-term epidemiological studies in human, basic research in animals and cells, or research into groups of people with known occupational exposure to specific chemicals."
The threat is particularly great when unborn children are exposed to EDCs. Animal studies found that exposure to even tiny amounts of EDCs during the prenatal period can trigger obesity later in life. Similarly, animal studies found that some EDCs directly target beta and alpha cells in the pancreas, fat cells, and liver cells. This can lead to insulin resistance and an overabundance of the hormone insulin in the body -- risk factors for Type 2 diabetes.
"It is clear we need to take action to minimize further exposure," Gore said. "With more chemicals being introduced into the marketplace all the time, better safety testing is needed to identify new EDCs and ensure they are kept out of household goods."
In the statement, the Society calls for: - Additional research to more directly infer cause-and-effect relationships between EDC exposure and health conditions. - Regulation to ensure that chemicals are tested for endocrine activity, including at low doses, prior to being permitted for use. - Calling upon "green chemists" and other industrial partners to create products that test for and eliminate potential EDCs. - Education for the public and policymakers on ways to keep EDCs out of food, water and the air, as well as ways to protect unborn children from exposure.
The statement also addresses the need to recognize EDCs as an international problem..... "Exposure to endocrine-disrupting chemicals during early development can have long-lasting, even permanent consequences," said Bourguignon. "The science is clear and it's time for policymakers to take this wealth of evidence into account as they develop legislation."