Endocrine disruptors: what they are and list of products - Know them and avoid them

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Did you know that most European citizens suffer from hormonal contamination, counting on detectable levels of endocrine disrupting compounds (EDCs) in their bodies? During the last 40 years, numerous studies and scientific investigations have associated different pathologies observed in different animal species and, mainly in humans, with exposure to various environmental hormonal pollutants. Specifically, the science of Endocrinology (focused on the study of the endocrine system and hormonal balance and regulation), has gained great importance and effectiveness as a science applied to different ecophysiological studies, in which more and more evidence is found that many Chemical compounds (artificial or natural), produce alterations and problems in the reproductive function of individuals and natural populations of wild animals, and of human beings.

We know more and more about these and we have more access to useful information. For example, in events dedicated to taking care of ourselves in the most natural way possible, such as BioCulture In Spain, lectures are given on endocrine disruptors and other harmful products, and natural products are shown that we can use to replace the products that contain these disruptors. Continue reading this interesting article by Ecologist Verde if you want to discover in more detail what are endocrine disruptors and what they are, as well as what are the products that contain them, the health problems they generate and how to avoid them.

What are endocrine disruptors

The endocrine disruptors (Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals / EDCs), are diverse and heterogeneous chemical compounds of natural or artificial origin, which exogenously affect the organism of humans and other animals, altering the balance or homeostasis of the endocrine system of these organisms.

According to the characteristic hormonal pattern of each animal species, it is possible to know how these environmental pollutants affect the endocrine system of each individual. For this, it is important to also take into account what role hormones play within the endocrine system, highlighting their role as internal chemical messengers, which, after being released by a hormone-secreting organ, pass into the bloodstream and are transported to their " target organs ", in which they act by carrying out their hormonal effect.

In this context, hormonal disruptors intervene directly altering the hormonal chemical message and, therefore, the endocrine system in general, in the following ways:

  • Mimicking the action of the body's natural endogenous hormones, that is, supplanting them.
  • Antagonizing the action of these natural hormones.
  • Altering their synthesis and metabolism.
  • Modulating and changing the levels of chemical receptors that directly interact with the hormones of the endocrine system.

In Spain, Dr. Nicolás Olea, Professor of Medicine, has dedicated more than 30 years to the study and research of the mechanisms of action and the impact of endocrine disruptors on health, being considered for this reason, one of the greatest experts in the study of endocrine disruptors. In his multiple studies, he details how the neurological and / or reproductive consequences associated with the endocrine system imbalance prevent optimal coordination of human organs, as well as failures in brain organization and metabolism, among others.

Image: Hormonal Contaminant Free

Health problems caused by endocrine disruptors

The negative effect of endocrine disruptors is reflected in different health problems in humans, among which stand out:

  • In women: increase in the appearance of breast cancer, endometriosis and negative consequences in a pregnancy, such as embryonic and fetal death or malformations in the offspring.
  • In men: decrease in the number of sperm and their functionality, cancer of the prostate and testicles, decrease in the level of the hormone testosterone, as well as modification of the concentration of thyroid hormones.
  • In boys and girls: low birth weight, precocious puberty, problems in the development of the central nervous system, hyperactivity, learning and reading comprehension problems, decreased intelligence quotient, higher incidence of different types of cancer and deformations in organs reproducers.
  • Neurotoxicity, with alterations in certain behavioral and cognitive functions.
  • Decreased immune response.

List of endocrine disruptor products

Currently, thanks to numerous studies and scientific research, it has been possible to confirm the endocrine disrupting properties of around 600 compounds. The most alarming thing about this confirmation is the fact that these compounds are part of the circle of chemical compounds most used in our day to day life. Let's put some examples of artificial endocrine disruptors most common to get to know them more closely:

  • Household insecticides: dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDT), aldrin and parathion.
  • Herbicides (atrazine, trifluoroalin).
  • Fungicides (mancozeb and zineb) and molluscides (tributyltin).
  • Neutral surfactant alkylphenols present in many cleaning supplies and in some already prepared or precooked foods.
  • Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), in lubricants.
  • Phthalates (being one of the main components of soft plastics in children's toys).
  • Bisphenol-A in polycarbonates and epoxy resins, present in both transparent bottles and food containers.
  • Artificial estrogens such as diethylstilbestrol (DES), one of the most used in contraceptives.
  • Components of the UV filters in certain creams, such as the chemical compound 3-benzophenone.
  • Environmental pollutants such as dioxins, furans, and certain polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, known for short as PAHs.

Many of these Artificial CDEs are currently under the supervision of the agreement signed in the Stockholm Convention, in which the international commitment of different countries was established to restrict and eradicate the use of these, also known as "Persistent organic pollutants”.

On the other hand, it is easy to find in our day, Natural CDEs, that is to say, those that are part of foods and natural substances, among which the pheromones and phytoestrogens (isoflavones and lignans) stand out, present both in soybeans and in other legumes.

How to avoid endocrine disruptors

Endocrine disruptors pose a dangerous environmental, human and other animal health problemTherefore, the control and regulation of the use of these harmful compounds are essential to avoid their possible consequences.

In this way, when adopting measures that ensure the protection of the environment and public health faced with these hormonal pollutants, the presence of more and more toxicological tests and new research objectives, oriented towards the evaluation of the CDE (and re-evaluation of the existing objectives), having as main objective the estimation of the risk that people, as well as the rest of animals and the environment, run against an increasingly frequent and continuous exposure to such hormonal contamination. The European Union Expert Committee for Toxicology, Ecotoxicology and Environment, for example, has begun to establish the main criteria to be taken into account for the control and future eradication of these hormonal pollutants. These criteria include: the volume of production of the chemical compound analyzed, its persistence in the environment, its bioavailability, its harmful effect (proven or potential) and its level of action on the health of people or biota, having take into account the degree of exposure and their susceptibility.

Now that we know what CDEs consist of and what compounds and elements that we use daily appear in, it is vitally important to create a joint social awareness network, avoiding the purchase and consumption of these products with hormonal contaminants, and pressuring the chemical and industrial companies that generate them, to eradicate their production as soon as possible.

You can learn more about this type of contamination in this other article on Chemical contamination: what it is, causes and consequences, in which aspects of endocrine disruptors, among other contaminants, are also discussed.

If you want to read more articles similar to Endocrine disruptors: what they are and list of products, we recommend that you enter our Health and Science category.

  • Olea, N. (1995) Exposure to endocrine disruptors. Medical Research Laboratory, Hospital Clínico -Universidad de Granada (Spain), pp: 1-5.
  • Samuel, P. (10/27/2019) Nicolás Olea: "100% of Spanish children pee plastic every day." Radio Televisión Española (RTVE) - News: Science and Technology. Retrieved from http://www.rtve.es/noticias/20191027/nicolas-olea-cien-ciende-ninos-espanoles-meaplastico-cada-dia/1984280.shtml
  • Rivas, A. et al., (2004) Human exposure to endocrine disruptors. Ecosistemas, scientific journal of Ecology and Environment. Volume 13 (3).
  • Argemi, F., Cianni, N. & Porta, A. (2005) Endocrine disruption: environmental perspectives and public health. Journal of Acta Bioquímica Clínica Latinoamericana. Volume 39 (3), pp: 291-300.
  • Andrade-Ribeiro, A. et al., (2006) Endocrine disruptors: potential problem for public health and the environment. Biomed Magazine. Volume 17, pp: 146-150.
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