A recent report by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the World Health Organization (WHO) concluded that many common chemicals are disrupting the human hormone system and could have significant health implications. The report is titled, “State of the Science of Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals.” It can be found here.
The study calls for more research on endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDC’s). They are found in many common household and industrial products. In fact, there are over 800 known endocrine disrupting chemicals present in our environment.
We are exposed to EDC’s on a daily basis. In fact, our exposure to EDC’s has been increasing dramatically over the last 50 years. They are found in a variety of commonly used consumer products including pesticides, electronic products, cosmetics, prescription medications, and even in food. Examples of EDC’s include bisphenol A (BPA), DDT, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCB’s), polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDE’s) and phthalates from plastics. Synthetic hormones fed to animals can also be considered EDC’s since they block our own hormone receptors.
EDC’s disrupt the hormonal system. They can cause cancer, birth defects, lower the IQ in infants as well as cause developmental disorders in children. For many years, I have lectured and written about the growing problem with EDC’s . These chemicals bind to our own hormone receptors and can either stimulate or block hormone receptors. How does exposure to EDC’s translate into health problems?
I have no doubt that our increasing exposure to EDC’s is, in part, responsible for the epidemic increases in cancer of the endocrine glands which includes the breast, thyroid, and prostate. Furthermore, these chemicals are, in part, responsible for the obesity epidemic we are facing.
You can see the effect of EDC’s on our youth. Girls are developing secondary sexual characteristics at earlier and earlier ages. Furthermore, young girls are starting to menstruate at much earlier age as compared to 20 years ago. Both early breast development and early onset of menses increases a girl’s lifetime risk of developing breast cancer.
Synthetic hormones such as Premarin and Provera, which are commonly prescribed for menopausal symptoms, would fall into this category as they block the human body’s own natural receptors for estrogen and progesterone. In fact, synthetic hormones have been shown to be directly correlated with the breast cancer epidemic we are currently facing.
The UNEP/WHO report also reported on the problems that EDC’s have on wildlife. Specifically, the authors reported that wildlife in Alaska has been negatively affected by EDC ‘s. Deer have been reported to have reproductive defects, infertility and antler malformation. Unfortunately, we can relate the deer problems to our own issues. We have marked increase in reproductive defects – newborn boys with hypospadias and non-descended testes, increased infertility rates in the U.S., as well as more and more men suffering from erectile dysfunction (ED). (Ok, antler malformation and ED is a bit of a stretch, but just go with it!).