Sexual Health

Endocrine-Disrupting Chemicals ECDs

When it comes to the many hormones present in the body, there are a lot of things that can go wrong.

Believe it or not, menopause and thyroid issues are not the worst things that can cause hormone disruption. And if you happen to think that you should learn about the potential endocrine-disrupting chemicals.

But do not stop there and learn all about how to avoid them as well.

In the following article, we will explain everything that you need to know about the common ECDs. You will also learn where you can find them and how you can avoid them. Let’s start, shall we?

What are some common endocrine disruptors?

It is the collection of endocrine glands in the body that create the endocrine system. Without the endocrine system and the hormones that these glands produce, we would not be able to survive.

Our hormones regulate just about anything that is going on in the body. From our metabolism, body growth and development, to the reproduction, sleep, and even our mood. Different hormones regulate different body functions. Estrogen, testosterone, insulin, and adrenaline being some of the most talked about. 

Endocrine disruptors, also known by the name of endocrine-disrupting chemicals, represent a wide range of chemicals. As the term suggests, an endocrine disruptor disrupts the natural endocrine activity and the hormone levels. The most dangerous ECDs disturb the work of the pituitary gland, which is the body’s master gland.

The World Health Organization (WHO) reports on ECDs being as dangerous to human health as it is to animals as well. Over the years, many human and animal studies have spoken of the harmful effects that the disrupting chemicals lead to.

One of the main characteristics of endocrine disruptors is their high stability. This is also the reason why so many manufacturers decide on including them in their products. Having high stability makes it possible for endocrine disruptors to stay around water, soil, air, and animal and human bodies, for a long time. 

Until now, researchers have been able to identify a few methods of action of the so-called endocrine disruptors. It is not uncommon for these harmful chemicals to mimic the mechanisms of action of the chosen hormone.

They are tricking the body into thinking that it is encountering a natural hormone. When this happens, the body does not make an effort to eliminate the present chemical. 

Other act by blocking the hormones from doing their job. Many toxic chemicals cause the hormone levels to either increase or decrease, thus causing a long line of adverse health effects. To do that, these chemicals affect hormone synthesis, breakdown, transport, and/or the release of the endocrine hormones. Last, but not least important is their ability to alter the body’s sensitivity to various hormones.

Because the endocrine disruptors are capable of causing an endocrine disruption by affecting many different hormone levels, various health issues are expected. The majority of health issues affect, but are not limited to, the reproductive system in both females and males.

Reproductive problems such as low sperm count and sperm quality, infertility, endometriosis, and early puberty can occur as a result. It is the estrogen and testosterone levels that are the two most commonly affected hormones due to the presence of the various endocrine-disrupting chemicals. 

A common adverse health effect due to persistent chemical exposure is diabetes. ECDs can also contribute to the development of certain types of cancer, especially breast cancer. ECDs exposure also threatens with an increased risk of cardiovascular issues, growth issues, neurological disabilities, a disturbed immune function, and many other health issues. 

Unfortunately, such endocrine disruptors can be seen all around us. You will quickly learn that they are hiding in places where you least expect them to be. in the following, we will share some of the most common endocrine-disrupting chemicals known to man.

Bisphenol A (BPA)

BPA, short for Bisphenol A, is probably one of the best-known chemicals that cause endocrine disruption. It is also known as environmental estrogen because of its strong endocrine effect and ability to interact with the human endocrine hormone receptors. 

This is one of the most common synthetic chemicals found in plastic bottles, food packages, and even cash register receipts. One of the major health risks of BPA exposure is breast cancer, among other cancer types. Even the slightest doses of BPA are considered to be harmful. 

Flame retardants

Flame retardants are a common endocrine disruptor as well. These environmental chemicals can be found in mattresses, foam cushions, and even baby car seats. But they are also capable of migrating into the air from which one would inhale. Polybrominated diphenyl ether (PBDE) are commonly used as flame retardants. 

Other than cancer, flame retardants and other industrial chemicals are linked to attention and IQ deficit in children, among other potential health issues.

The good news is that the use of such chemicals is now forbidden in the U.S. The bad news is that their alternatives are poorly studied and could potentially harm the body.

Phthalates

Phthalate is a major potential endocrine disruptor. Prenatal exposure to phthalates leads to an increased risk of birth defects, especially of the male reproductive system, miscarriage, and gestational diabetes. PVC plastic, plastic wraps, and, unfortunately, children’s toys are a common source of phthalates. One of the most significant sources of phthalates is fragrance. So anything that is not fragrance-free is a big no-no!

Atrazine

Atrazine is perhaps the most frightening of them all. Did you know that as much as 30 million American households have water systems in which this dangerous herbicide can be found? Atrazine is more commonly found in the water in the American household than any other pesticide. 

Perchlorate

Perchlorate is a common endocrine disruptor that interferes with the thyroid gland. Once it enters the body, it starts to compete with iodine, which is a vital nutrient included in the production of thyroid hormones.

Through this important endocrine gland, the body produces thyroid hormone, which is then included in many body functions. Perchlorate is yet another endocrine disruptor found in the water of as many as 17 million American households. 

Polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB)

Polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) mimics estrogen, leading to acne, skin rash, and even liver damage. These endocrine disruptors are present in plastics, copy paper, and even additives in plants. 

Other potential endocrine disruptors are the persistent organic pollutants such as glycol ethers, PFAS chemicals, and others. 

How do people encounter endocrinedisrupting chemicals?

Human exposure to endocrine disruptors occurs in many different ways. It is an unfortunate truth that these chemicals constantly surround us. As you can see, many of the endocrine disruptors are present in food and drinking water. Others are found in the air and dust, thus being inhaled daily. Others are encountered via the skin. 

As protective the placenta is during pregnancy, there are endocrine disruptors that can be transferred via the placenta from the mother to the growing baby in the uterus. Others can be transferred via the breastmilk. It is the children and the pregnant women that are considered to be the most vulnerable group when it comes to endocrine disruption. 

Because we are exposed to so many different ECDs simultaneously, researchers are finding it hard to identify the influence of every single ECD separately.

It is almost impossible to isolate and test out these ECDs that are entering our body every day through the food we eat, water that we drink, even the air that we breathe, and even electronics that we use daily. And to think that these harmful chemicals can even enter our body via skin.

However, this does not stop researchers from working non-stop on their mission to identify as much as ECDs as possible, and their many mechanisms of action and potential adverse effects.

How do ECDs affect male health?

Speaking of male health, ECDs have a great influence on it, although not a single aspect of that is positive. This means that those plastic bags, cans, and fragrances are doing more harm than you think so.

By mimicking or blocking the reproductive hormones – estrogen and testosterone- endocrine disruptors affect male and female reproductive health. Here are all the ways in which the common endocrine disruptors are affecting male reproductive health.

Congenital disabilities in male sex organs

ECDs are contributing to the more frequent birth defects in terms of male sex organs. The two most common birth defects are cryptorchidism and hypospadias. In individuals with cryptorchidism, the testicles remain inside the abdominal area despite being expected to drop down as in healthy individuals. 

As for hypospadias, this is a malformation of the opening of the penis, which in this case, is on the outside rather than being on its end as it is supposed to. The exact mechanism that leads to these birth defects is unknown.

Low sperm quality

ECDs can affect every single sperm characteristic. From sperm count, morphology, and motility, to volume and overall production – these chemicals reduce the entire sperm quality. Men exposed to ECDs often struggle with low sperm count and motility, as well as poor sperm morphology. This contributes to the next issue that we will discuss – infertility.

Infertility

Endocrine disruption contributes to male infertility in many ways. The chances for a successful pregnancy are low with low sperm count and motility. It is through sperm of high quality that a healthy pregnancy can take place. And even if pregnancy occurs, the occupational and environmental exposure to the common ECDs can potentially lead to a miscarriage. 

How can you avoid ECDs?

Now that you know how great of damage can these substances do to your body, it is important to do whatever you can to keep them away from you and your family.

As scientists have been learning more about the common endocrine disruptors, they have also found ways that have proven useful in avoiding these very same substances.

  • Get informed. Gathering all the information that you need about ECDs is step one. Reading today’s article is a good place to start, but we encourage you to learn about these life-threatening substances as much as possible. 

  • Read the labels. Start looking at everything with a critical eye. Do not stop until you are aware of every ingredient used to make the new toy, pan, or even favorite water bottle. But do not stop there. Look at the labels of any pre-packaged food and drinks before you buy it. Here is a little tip. Whenever you are buying a drink in a plastic bottle, look for one that has the symbol #1, #2, or #4 in the recycling sign. This informs you that no BPA has been used in the production process of that bottle. The best tip that we can give you is the following one.

  • Eat less pre-packaged food. If you do not want to spend hours analyzing every single ingredient on that potato chips bag, here is a great tip – do not buy it! We kindly recommend that you stick to fresh foods as much as possible. Even without the common endocrine disruptors, pre-packaged foods are filled with unhealthy fats, sugars, artificial colors, and whatnot, all of which compromise your good health. Instead of buying microwave dinners, choose fresh foods. Make it a habit to prepare your dinners and lunches at home. 

  • Choose fragrance-free products. As we mentioned earlier, phthalates are found in products that contain fragrance. And these are not the only ECDs found in fragrances. If you want to avoid phthalates and the health risks that come with them, choose fragrance-free products. Nowadays, there is a great selection of fragrance-free creams, cleaning products, and natural air fresheners. You can even use natural products such as citrus peels and baking soda for an odor-free microwave and fridge. Not to mention the natural skincare products that you can make as well.

  • Rethink your packing choices. Did you know that your beloved flexible vinyl also contains phthalates? And that the convenient to use shatterproof plastic contains BPA? These may be easy to use, but that does not make them safe. Instead of plastic, we highly recommend using stainless steel and glass containers. Invest in a high-quality glass water bottle and stop purchasing plastic bottles. And do not forget about plastic bags and the more convenient and cheap reusable bags that can easily replace them. 

  • Use the old stovetop popcorn popping method. Popping some popcorn in the microwave is not only easy, but it also cuts back on one thing that many people hate – doing the dishes. But if you want to shield yourself from the harmful effects that the ECDs are causing, you better go back to the old stovetop popping method. Do not ignore the fact that most microwaveable popcorn bags are covered with icky PFAS chemicals from the inside – ones you need to avoid. 

  • Invest in a quality water filter. Knowing how many ECDs can enter your body through drinking water, buying a quality water filter is one of the best investments that you can make. Do your homework and find one that will fulfill your expectations when it comes to delivering clean, ECDs-free drinking water that you can enjoy in. 

Conclusion

Day after day, we are living surrounded by various endocrine disturbers. Although many of us are unaware of their existence all around us, that does not change the fact that these chemicals still exist. But not only do they exist, but they are also causing a long line of health issues.

Diabetes, heart disease, infertility, endometriosis, mood disorders, and sleep disorders are only some of these supposed health issues.

Because of how great their influence on our body is and how often they are met and seen around us, researchers are struggling to determine to which extent the negative effects of these chemicals go. Until they gain knowledge of this topic, we are left with useful tips that help us protect ourselves and our loved ones against ECDs.

Sources

  1. Monneret, C., 2017. What is an endocrine disruptor? Comptes Rendus Biologies, 340(9-10), pp.403–405.
    Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29126512/
  2. Lauretta, R. et al., 2019. Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals: Effects on Endocrine Glands. Frontiers in Endocrinology, 10.
    Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6448049/
  3. Wang, Z., Liu, H. & Liu, S., 2017. Low-Dose Bisphenol A Exposure: A Seemingly Instigating Carcinogenic Effect on Breast Cancer. Advanced Science, 4(2), p.1600248.
    Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5323866/
  4. Yang, O. et al., 2015. Endocrine-disrupting Chemicals: Review of Toxicological Mechanisms Using Molecular Pathway Analysis. Journal of Cancer Prevention, 20(1), pp.12–24.
    Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4384711/

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