Endocrine disruptors have been defined by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences as chemicals that may interfere with the body’s endocrine (hormonal) system. They also produce adverse developmental, reproductive, neurological and immune effects on both humans and wildlife. Not only do these insidious toxins discombobulate our entire hormonal system, but we have no idea how their devastating damage is going to affect future generations in every family.
There is a frightening number of chemicals in our environment today that can set off a cascade of unnatural reactions that interfere with the synthesis, transport, binding and actions of hormones.
Impact on Neurodevelopment
Exposure to endocrine disruptors either in utero or during the first two years of life of a child can significantly damage neurodevelopment.
Developmental milestones are reached in the first two years of life when the neurological, immune, nervous and sensory systems are all developing. A child does not fully develop the thymus gland, which protects the immune system, until after two years of age. This means the immune system is much more susceptible to toxic insults.
Toxic insults such as endocrine disruptors can be accumulative and impair the brain at any age, but they are particularly damaging to the developing brain. Once neurodevelopment regresses due to toxic overload, as in the case of autism spectrum disorders, recovery can take a long time, and in many cases may never be attainable.
In addition to the life of a child, there is the stress and burden on families, marriages, siblings, finances, school, society and the list is never ending.
Effects of Endocrine Disruptors
Here are some of the disruptions in our hormonal system when these toxins wreak havoc in our bodies:
- Increasing production of certain hormones
- Decreasing production of other hormones
- Imitating hormones
- Turning one hormone into another
- Interfering with hormone signaling
- Communicating cell death prematurely
- Competing with essential nutrients
- Binding to essential hormones
- Accumulating in organs that produce hormones.
Common Endocrine Disruptors
The twelve worst known endocrine disruptors (the dirty dozen) that should be avoided at all cost are:
- BPA is a chemical used in plastics that imitates estrogen. It is found in the lining of cans of food. Avoid plastics marked with PC for polycarbonate.
- Dioxins are created during industrial processes when chlorine and bromine are burned in the presence of carbon and oxygen. They are powerful carcinogens and can negatively affect the immune and reproductive systems. Meat, fish, milk, eggs and butter are foods most likely to be contaminated.
- Atrazine is a widely used herbicide on the majority of corn crops and is found in drinking water. It is linked to breast cancer, delayed puberty and prostate inflammation. Buy organic produce and get filtered water to avoid this toxin.
- Phthalates are found in plastic food containers, children’ toys, plastic wrap made from PVC, and personal care products and perfumes, as they can:
- Trigger “death-inducing signaling” in testicular cells
- Cause lower sperm count
- Cause less mobile sperm
- Cause birth defects in the male reproductive system
- Cause obesity
- Cause diabetes
- Cause thyroid irregularities
- Perchlorate is a component of rocket fuel often found in our produce and milk. It competes with iodine, thereby causing thyroid hormone imbalances. Balanced thyroid hormones are critical for proper brain and organ development in babies and children. Install a reverse osmosis water filter and increase iodine in your diet to help avoid the effects of this toxin.
- Fire retardants have persistent chemicals known as polybrominated diphenyl ethers or PBDEs. They imitate thyroid hormones and disrupt their activity and can lower IQ. They are found in breast milk, human bodies – even in polar bears. A vacuum clear with a HEPA filter can help cut down on toxic house dust. Avoid reupholstering foam furniture and replacing old carpets.
- Lead harms almost every organ. It disrupts the hormone signaling from the hypothalamus-pituitary- adrenal axis to increase stress. To limit exposure to lead, get rid of old paint and use a reverse-osmosis water filter. Lead is linked to a huge number of health effects such as:
- Permanent brain damage
- Lower IQ
- Hearing loss
- Premature births
- Increased blood pressure
- Kidney damage
- Lower levels of sex hormones
- Nervous system problems
- Arsenic is in our food, especially rice, chicken, applesauce and water. It can cause skin, bladder and lung cancer and disrupt the glucocorticoid system that processes carbohydrates and sugars. It is linked to immunosuppression, insulin resistance, osteoporosis, growth retardation and high blood pressure. Use a reverse-osmosis water filter and avoid food with high levels of arsenic.
- Mercury can be airborne from burning coal getting into the air and oceans. Many large fish such as tuna have methylmercury which is toxic to the fetal brain and developing brain. Medicines containing an ethylmercury preservative in the form of thimerosal can have a devastating neurotoxic effect on the brain. To avoid mercury make sure medicines do not have thimerosal, avoid mercury dental amalgams, and eat wild caught smaller fish such mackerel.
- Perfluorinated chemicals (PFCs) chemicals are found in non-stick cookware and are resistant to biodegradation. Exposure has been linked to decreased sperm quality, low birth weight, kidney disease, thyroid disease, and high cholesterol. Avoid using non-stick pans and water-resistant coatings on clothing, furniture and carpets.
- Orgnophosphate pesticides are toxic pesticides that target the nervous system of insects. Studies link exposure to brain development problems, behavioral problems and fertility problems becuase they lower testosterone and alter thyroid hormone levels. Buy organic produce and use organic pesticides.
- Glyco ethers are capable of shrinking testicles and damaging fertility or the unborn child. They are found in solvents, paints, cleaning products, brake fluid and cosmetics. Exposure causes more allergies and asthma in children. Buy healthy cleaning fluids and avoid products with EGBE and DEGME.
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