Endocrine Disruptors and Reproductive Health

According to the World Health Organization, “endocrine disruptors are chemical substances of natural or artificial origin, foreign to an organism, which can interfere with the functioning of the endocrine (hormonal) system and have a negative effect on the organism and its descendants.”

Our everyday environment exposes us to pesticides, toxic substances (present in many plastics derived from hydrocarbons found in household renovation or maintenance products), our furniture, our clothes, our kitchen accessories and even our food

Many such substances are suspected of causing certain issues with sperm and the menstrual cycle, causing infertility, congenital deformities, miscarriages, premature births, and other health problems. These endocrine disruptors have created a great deal of concern among scientific researchers.

Acting at extremely low doses, the damage they cause may only appear years after initial exposure.

Additionally, the combined effects of multiple endocrine disruptors are still poorly understood (a “cocktail effect” caused by daily overexposure). 

How Endocrine Disruptors Work

Endocrine disruptors can enter the body undetected through the nose (in the air we breathe), the mouth (what we eat and drink) and the skin (cells absorb the substances and transmit them to the bloodstream). 

They can disrupt hormonal function in several ways: 

  • By imitating natural hormones; 

  • By preventing hormones from communicating their messages to cells;

  • By causing irreversible cell damage during embryo formation;

  • By interfering with the secretion and elimination of hormones from the body.

Examples of Endocrine Disruptors

  • BISPHENOL A is used in the production of plastics. In food packaging, it prevents micro-bacterial contamination and preserves the taste of food. 

  • PHTALATES are often used as plasticizers, as they soften plastics. They also serve as fixing agents in cosmetics. 

  • PARABENS have antifungal and antibacterial properties. They are generally used as conserving agents.

  • SYNTHETIC HORMONES such as oral contraceptives, hormone replacement treatments and certain feed additives for animals, for example, are all specially designed to act on the endocrine system. Their derivatives are found in waste water and contaminate the environment. 

  • AND MORE...

 

Prevention

It’s important to avoid or diminish the impact of endocrine disruptors. Here’s a brief list of products that may contain them:

  • PVC shower curtains;

  • Children’s toys;

  • Personal hygiene products;

  • Detergents;

  • Cleaning products;

  • Canned foods;

  • Plastic food wrap;

  • Air fresheners;

  • Kitchen cookware;

  • Dust, as it accumulates toxins present in the air.

Protecting Future Generations

"The relationship between the dose of these substances and their effects is not linear, there may be a greater impact with a lower dose than a higher dose. Rather, it’s the time of exposure that is most important, with a particular sensitivity during pregnancy and early childhood. This development stage, when a human being is particularly vulnerable, is called the ‘exposure window.’ The duration of exposure must also be taken into account. […] Finally, endocrine disruptors are a time bomb, with long-term effects that may not manifest until adulthood or what may be transmitted from one generation to the next (a multigenerational effect)." (Duval & Simonot, 2010)
 
To find more information, as well as less toxic alternatives, consult the following websites on the subject: 

http://www.sabotagehormonal.org/ (French only)

www.davidsuzuki.org

http://www.environmentaldefence.ca

www.ewg.org

http://cerhr.niehs.nih.gov/common/index.html

http://www.healthbeforepregnancy.ca/

http://www.generationscobayes.org  (French only)

 

 

Génération Cobayes, consulté le 30 juillet 2018, Les perturbateurs endocriniens, http://www.generationscobayes.org/je-minforme/les-perturbateurs-endocriniens-0

 

DUVAL Geneviève et  Brigitte SIMONOT, Les perturbateurs endocriniens : Un enjeu sanitaire pour le XXIème siècle, Air Pur,  2010, 79, p.11