A Lifestyle Prescription for Optimal Health: How Safe Are We with Today’s Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals? – 27
- “minimizing exposure to endocrine disruptors will not only remove distress and pain for the persons (and the wildlife) affected, it will also save the society from considerable economic costs” – authors of study: The Cost of Inaction : A Socioeconomic analysis of costs linked to effects of endocrine disrupting substances on male reproductive health, November 17, 2014
- “the costs estimated in this report therefore represent only a fraction of the total costs of exposure to endocrine disruptors”. – authors of study: The Cost of Inaction : A Socioeconomic analysis of costs linked to effects of endocrine disrupting substances on male reproductive health, November 17, 2014
- “This study shows the scale of the impacts that hormone disrupting chemicals are having. It’s time for Europe to resist the lobbying of those companies that make money from these chemicals and instead act to phase them out”- Dr. Michael Warhurst, Executive Director of CHEM Trust
The endocrine system is composed of a collection of glands throughout the human body with each producing specific hormones regulating our health in many different ways. The system is made up of the thyroid gland, the pituitary gland, the hypothalamus and pineal glands, the parathyroid glands, the adrenal glands, the pancreas, the ovaries in females and the testicles in males. Together these glands produce hormones that circulate throughout the body, targeting specific organs and tissues that regulate metabolism, growth and development, sexual function, sleep, reproduction, tissue function, and even your mood among other things. It goes without saying that keeping our endocrine system running as it should is imperative to our good health. But today, within our environment and contained in our processed foods are man-made chemicals known as Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals (EDCs) that are known to alter the functioning of our endocrine system, increasing the risk of developing major health problems due to our use of synthetic chemicals that have been untested for the disrupting effects they may have upon our endocrine system itself. EDCs, today, are found just about everywhere: cosmetics, shampoos and other personal care products, electronics, pesticides and of course as additives or contaminants in the processed foods we eat every day. The health implications from the use of these EDCs have grown overwhelmingly because we now better understand the toxicity of these chemicals and what they are capable of doing.
According to the most comprehensive report providing the combined scientific knowledge on the exposure and effects of EDCs by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and WHO, it found many synthetic EDCs are capable of significant health complications to include escalating the incidence of breast cancer in women and prostate cancer in men, thyroid cancer, hyperactivity and attention deficit in children as well as the development of non-descended testes in young males.
- State of the science of endocrine disrupting chemicals, WHO/UNEP, 2012
Illustration of normal hormonal response (A) and EDCs interference with hormone receptors (B).
A new report by the Environment Health Perspectives has revealed critical information about how 12 EDCs operate by targeting estrogen receptors at the molecular and atomic levels. The 12 EDCs tested included Bisphenol A and the flame retardant tetrachlorobisphenol A and found all twelve EDCs suspect in having a role in the development of a number of cancers as well as influencing developmental, metabolic and reproductive disorders by interacting with the body’s estrogen receptors.
- EDCs and Estrogen Receptor Activity: A Pathway to Safer Chemical Design?, Environmental Health Perspective, December, 2014
Data from the The Colorado Thyroid Disease Prevalence Study indicates the risk of suboptimal thyroid function & hypothyroidism is more pronounced in women (Canaris, 2000).
A very common health issue with Americans these days is hypothyroidism which occurs when the thyroid gland fails to produce enough hormones. Untreated hypothyroidism may contribute to a number of disorders such as hypertension, dyslipidemia, infertility, cognitive impairment, and neuromuscular dysfunction. The National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey completed in 2002 suggests that 1 in 300 Americans then had hypothyroidism with the prevalence increasing with age, and with females affected at a much higher rate than males. In 2004 it was estimated that 13 million had undiagnosed hypothyroidism.
Data from the CDC find that the incidence of congenital (from birth) hypothyroidism is rising, resulting in partial or complete loss of thyroid function. EDCs are a primary suspect.
Thyroid cancer has also shown a significant upsurge in incidence as the thyroid gland begins to grow uncontrollably, and may eventually form a tumor due to the influence EDCs appear to have upon the endocrine system.
“The incidence of thyroid cancer is rising in both men and women. In 1975, the incidences of thyroid cancer in men and women were 3.14 and 6.45 per 100,000, respectively. By 2010, the respective values were 7.63 and 21.15 (Figure 2)3.”
- SEER Cancer Statistics Review 1975-2010. 2013. Available at:http://seer.cancer.gov/csr/1975_2010/.
Different areas of the world are showing dramatic differences in the incidence of thyroid cancer. There is a ten-fold difference in incidence for women, but only a three-fold incidence for men.
- Curado MP, Edwards B, Shin HR, Storm H, Ferlay J, Heanue M. et al, editors. Cancer incidence in five continents, vol IX. IARC Sci Publ No. 160. Lyon: IARC. 2007.
ALL Americans are exposed to EDCs that mimic natural hormones made by the tissues and organs of the endocrine system. It has become virtually impossible to escape contact with these man-made EDCs. When this happens a variety of responses may develop. They may create a totally different response than the natural hormones or they could cause a response that is more powerful or less powerful than the natural hormones they are replacing. Because these endocrine hormones are so powerful, they are measured in parts per trillion (ppt.), so it only takes infinitesimal amounts to throw your health into a chaotic whirlpool leading to anything from slowing down your metabolism causing undesirable weight gain to a disrupted immune system, cardiac dysfunction or altered mental status. Without the proper amounts and the right types of our Natural endocrine hormones, it is impossible to maintain a status of good health unless these conditions are corrected with pharmaceutical drugs that often must be taken the rest of your life – often due to EDCs invading the body as toxic chemicals we can no longer can escape.
EDCs are found in personal care products from cosmetics to toothpastes, as additives in foods, in pesticides, in plastic containers used for drinking water and other food items, within the ink contained on the receipts you receive after a making a purchase, and in some pharmaceutical drugs.
Examples of EDCs found in our environment include the following:
- PCBs & Dioxins found in pesticides. Strong evidence links PCBs as carcinogens that are able to damage the immune system, the brain, reproductive organs and hormones. They can also cross the placenta that may contribute to mental issues in children. PCBs can also enter breast milk. Dioxins are also powerful carcinogens that can affect the immune system and reproductive system. They can permanently affect sperm quality and affect sperm count.
- Flame retardants found in plastics, food, paint, furniture – everything from baby blankets to carpets. “Many infants are in physical contact with products treated with these chemicals 24 hours a day.”
- Perfluorinated chemicals (PFCs) are a family of fluorine-containing chemicals that include perfluoroctanic acid (PFOA) and perfluoroctane sulfonate (PFOS). They are used in manufacturing and industrial applications because they provide useful properties such as fire resistance and oil, stain, grease and water repellency. Some are found in food packaging and non-stick cookware coatings. Researchers are discovering serious health concerns about PFOAs increasing risk for cancers of the liver, pancreas, testicular, and breast, while PFOS causes liver and thyroid cancer in rats. Additional health issues of PFCs include liver and kidney damage as well as reproductive problems.
- Phthalates found in plastics, food packaging, cosmetics and cleaning agents. Exposure to phthalates has affected the reproductive system of laboratory animals according to the CDC. CDC researchers have measured 13 phthalate metabolites in the general U.S. population indicating that phthalate exposure is WIDESPREAD IN THE U.S. POPULATION
- BPA, BPS, BPF found in food packaging, canned foods, receipt ink. More than 90% of the U.S. population has been exposed to BPA which is linked to cardiovascular disease, diabetes, sperm anomalies, reproductive organ dysfunction, and altered immunity. According to Dr. Frederick vom Saal, a University of Missouri biologist who studies endocrine disruptors, “BPA is acting on receptors that are already above thresholds because everyone has estrogen in their body.” When the hormone receptors are overloaded, EDCs can alter cell function throughout the body. Studies have shown that BPA is capable of affecting health in much smaller quantities than what’s used in typical toxicology tests. According to research published in Toxicological Sciences, BPS and BPF, the replacements made for BPA appear to not only have similar effects as BPA, but sometimes even worse EDCs effects. Exposure occurs when these chemicals seep out of plastics and into the foods and drinks contained in the plastics as well as most canned foods. In a 2014 University of Calgary study it was found that both BPA and BPS can cause alterations in brain development that led to hyperactivity in zebrafish. Deborah Kurrasch with the university’s Cumming School of Medicine stated, “I was actually very surprised at our results. This was a very, very, very low dose, so I didn’t think using a dose this low could have any effect. We wanted to use a dose that was found in a natural waterway and that people would get in their drinking water. Waste-water treatment plants do not filter out BPA so this is presumably what is coming into people’s houses. We used a dose that is lower than what developing babies have naturally and we found that brain development is perturbed (in the fish). You have a bunch of cells in your brain and at some point they become neurons and they have to move to the right place to form the right circuitry. If neurons are born too soon, they can move to the wrong place and can form the wrong circuits.” The result was a change in behavior.
o Low-dose exposure to bisphenol A and replacement bisphenol S induces precocious hypothalamic neurogenesis in embryonic zebrafish, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the U.S., 2014
- UV Filters found in some sunscreens and cosmetics
- Triclosan found in personal care products and antibacterial soaps and toothpastes
- Parabens found deodorants and polyester fabrics
- BHA, BHT found in food and gum as a preservative. BHA (butylated hydroxyanisole) is a food additive that the FDA deems to be GRAS (“generally recognized as safe”), while the National Institutes of Health says it’s “reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen?” BHT is its chemical cousin BHT (butylated hydroxytoluene)
According to the UN Under-Secretary-General and UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner, “Chemical products are increasingly part of modern life and support many national economies, but the unsound management of chemicals challenges the achievement of key development goals, and sustainable development for all.”
Dr. Maria Neira, WHO’s Director for Public Health and Environment says, “We urgently need more research to obtain a fuller picture of the health and environment impacts of endocrine disruptors. The latest science shows that communities across the globe are being exposed to EDCs, and their associated risks. WHO will work with partners to establish research priorities to investigate links to EDCs and human health impacts in order to mitigate the risks. We all have a responsibility to protect future generations.”
Professor Åke Bergman of Stockholm University states, “Research has made great strides in the last ten years showing endocrine disruption to be far more extensive and complicated than realized a decade ago. As science continues to advance, it is time for both management of endocrine disrupting chemicals and further research on exposure and effects of these chemicals in wildlife and humans.”
A 2012 study stated, “Epidemiological data show increases in incidence and prevalence of diseases associated with endocrine-disrupting chemicals, such as breast, prostate, and testis cancer, diabetes, obesity, and decreased fertility over the last 50 years.” Although the study could not prove cause and effect, the implications are that EDCs are responsible for the health concerns for which they have been involved.
- Incidence and Prevalence of Health Problems associated with Endocrine Disruption Have Increased, Journal of Environmental and Public Health, 2012
Today we use a triangular recycle, number system for identifying which plastics are THOUGHT to be safe, and which ones to avoid. Unfortunately, trying to read the number contained within the triangle many times may require remarkable vision or the use of a magnifying glass, but a number is provided. Here is the current nomenclature of this system and what each abbreviation stands for:
#1 PETE or PET: Polyethylene Terephthalate Ethylene, used for synthetic fibers, sodas, juice, water, detergent, cleaner and peanut butter containers. There is still a question that PETE or PET could possibly yield EDCs under conditions of common recommended use.
#2 HDPE: High Density Polyethylene, used in opaque plastic milk and water jugs, detergent and shampoo bottles and some plastic bags
#3 PVC or V: Polyvinyl chloride, used for cling wrap, plastic squeeze bottles, cooking oils and peanut butter containers, and detergent and window cleaner bottles.
#4 LDPE: Low Density Polyethylene, used in grocery store bags, most plastic wraps, Zip-lock bags and some bottles
#5 PP: Polypropylene, used in most Rubbermaid, deli soup, syrup and yogurt containers, straws and other clouded plastic containers, including baby bottles
#6 PS: Polystyrene, use in Styrofoam food trays, egg cartons, disposable cups and bowels, carry-out containers and opaque plastic cutlery
#7 Other: A catch-all category for plastics that don’t fit into #1-6 categories. It includes polycarbonate, bio-based plastics, co-polyester, acrylic, polyamide and plastic mixtures like styrene-acrylonitrile resin (SAN). # 7 plastics are used for a variety of products like baby bottles and “Sippy” cups, baby food jars, 5-gallon water bottles, “sport” water bottles, plastic dinnerware and clear plastic cutlery.
It wasn’t very long ago when all of these plastics were thought to be safe which is why they were placed in the market. But as research has continued, the safety of these plastics has come into serious question. ALL of them are made with chemicals we are beginning to understand in more sophisticated ways concerning the effects EDCs may have upon our health.
My advice: We are exposed to EDCs in a multitude of ways. With regard to food storage and processed foods, THERE IS NO ABSOLUTE SAFETY WITH THE INTAKE OF ANY EDCs. Therefore, I would suggest returning as much as possible to the way foods were stored before our post WW II intellectual revolution relying upon the growing use of EDCs for corporate profits. Instead, return to leach-free materials such as glass or stainless steel. Avoid as many plastics in ALL their forms, regardless of the triangular number they may have, as best as you can. Any form of plastic may present still unknown health risks as researchers continue to turn up additional health issues from all Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals which need to be avoided as best as we can.