People can become overweight, develop type 2 diabetes, heart disease, fertility problems, immune disorders, respiratory diseases, cancers, and a host of other chronic ailments, in part, because of the chemicals to which they are exposed. That’s what the Endocrine Society, the world’s oldest, largest, and most active organization devoted to hormone research has been saying for over a decade. Your diet probably would have worked better a hundred years ago.
EDC-2: The Endocrine Society’s Second Scientific Statement on Endocrine-Disrupting Chemicals, Endocrine Reviews, December 2015
All those letters in red on the left side of this diagram are abbreviations for chemicals we’re exposed to every day. I’ve listed some sources for those chemicals at the bottom of this post. T2DM is type 2 diabetes.
The Endocrine Society’s first Scientific Statement in 2009 provided a wake-up call to the scientific community about how environmental endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs) affect health and disease. Five years later, a substantially larger body of literature has solidified our understanding of plausible mechanisms underlying EDC actions and how exposures in animals and humans—especially during development—may lay the foundations for disease later in life.
At this point in history, we have much stronger knowledge about how EDCs alter gene-environment interactions via physiological, cellular, molecular, and epigenetic changes, thereby producing effects in exposed individuals as well as their descendants.
Causal links between exposure and manifestation of disease are substantiated by experimental animal models and are consistent with correlative epidemiological data in humans.
In this second Scientific Statement, we reviewed the literature on a subset of topics for which the translational evidence is strongest: 1) obesity and diabetes; 2) female reproduction; 3) male reproduction; 4) hormone-sensitive cancers in females; 5) prostate; 6) thyroid; and 7) neurodevelopment and neuroendocrine systems.
The bulk of the results across the board strengthen the evidence for endocrine health-related actions of EDCs. Based on this much more complete understanding of the endocrine principles by which EDCs act, including nonmonotonic dose-responses, low-dose effects, and developmental vulnerability, these findings can be much better translated to human health. Armed with this information, researchers, physicians, and other healthcare providers can guide regulators and policymakers as they make responsible decisions.
About that “low-dose effects” highlight, from their first report:
Even infinitesimally low levels of exposure — indeed, any level of exposure at all — may cause endocrine or reproductive abnormalities, particularly if exposure occurs during a critical developmental window (10). Surprisingly, low doses may even exert more potent effects than higher doses. Second, EDCs may exert nontraditional dose-response curves, such as inverted-U or U-shaped curves (11). Both of these concepts have been known for hormone and neurotransmitter actions, but only in the past decade have they begun to be appreciated for EDCs.
We are being continually bombarded by many sources. The amount of chemicals in our bodies has never been seen in the history of humanity. We are one big experiment:
Single exposures are not representative of more common widespread persistent exposure to a broad mix of indoor and outdoor chemicals and contaminants. Industrialized areas are typically characterized by contamination from a wide range of industrial chemicals that may leach into soil and groundwater. These complex mixtures enter the food chain and accumulate in animals higher up the food chain such as humans, American bald eagles, polar bears, and other predatory animals. Exposure occurs through drinking contaminated water, breathing contaminated air, ingesting food, or contacting contaminated soil. People who work with pesticides, fungicides, and industrial chemicals are at particularly high risk for exposure and thus for developing a reproductive or endocrine abnormality.
Right? So, when it comes to endocrine disruptors, basic assumptions about dose-response goes out the window. Don’t let the government tell you that there is a certain threshold below which these chemicals won’t affect us. It’s simply not true.
Some sources for endocrine disruptors:
- Canned foods, because most metal cans are lined with a sealant containing BPA
- Water and other beverage bottles
- Baby bottles, sippy cups, baby pacifiers
- Other hard, clear plastic food containers
- Cash register receipts
- Eyeglass lenses and safety glasses
- CDs and DVDs
- Coatings on pharmaceutical pills and nutritional supplements
- Shampoo, soap, perfumes, nail polish, hair spray, aftershave lotions, moisterizers
- Vinyl flooring and wall coverings
- Siding and roofing materials
- Food packaging
- Detergents and lubricating oils
- Medical devices, e.g. blood bags and tubing
- Wire and cable
- Coated fabrics
- Rain boots and other footwear
- Garden hoses and outdoor furniture
Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs). This is a group of pollutants including DDT, PCBs, dioxins, furans, hexachlorobenzene. They are used as pesticides, solvents, pharmaceuticals, and industrial chemicals. They are called persistent because they don’t break down easily in the environment.
- Consumption of animal foods considered greatest contributor (as POPs move up the food chain, they increase in concentration = bioaccumulation)
- Pesticides, insecticides
- Cigarette smoke
- Vehicle exhaust
- Indoor and outdoor dust and air
By the way, Roundup is an endocrine disruptor.