An endocrine disruptor or hormone disruptor is a synthetic compound that mimics a natural hormone when it is absorbed by the body. It’s effect can include: altering normal hormone levels, triggering excessive hormone action, or completely blocking a natural hormone response. This has implications for fertility and reproduction, intelligence, immune defense, and perhaps ultimately, survival. John Lee M.D. in his seminars referred to this by saying that “we may be two generations away from total infertility” because of the hormone disrupters found in our world.
Hormone Disruptors are in the food we eat, the air we breathe and the water we drink!
Since the advent of the chemical industry in the 1940s, thousands of chemicals have been produced and released into the air and water and into products commercially available to each of us on a daily basis. Chemicals now contaminate even the remotest parts of earth.
One disturbing factor is that these chemicals can become hormone disruptors or Endocrine Disrupters and may have a cumulative effect on our body since they usually mimic estrogen. In other words it will likely not be a one time exposure that affects us but the assault by the variety of ways that we are exposed to these hormone mimickers.
The Environmental Working Group has created a list of foods that have been contaminated by pesticides and chemicals that are suspected hormone disruptors.
The Hormone Connection!
Wildlife and humans share very similar hormone systems and are exposed to the same hormone disrupting substances as the animals. Evidence drawn from wildlife and laboratory observations of mammals, birds, reptiles and fish, indicates that hormone disruptors may cause a wide range of problems, including:
- decreased immune functions;
- hormonal imbalances (e.g., thyroid disorders);
- gross birth deformities;
- abnormal reproductive tracts (feminization of males and masculinization of females);
- decreased sperm count;
- decreased hatching;
- increased cancers of reproductive organs;
- behavioral and intelligence effects (including neurological and behavioral changes in later life).
Known hormone disrupting chemicals that can be found in wastewaters and the environment include the estradiol compounds commonly found in the contraceptive pill, pesticides, industrial chemicals such as Bisphenol A and nonyl Phenol, and heavy metals (Lintelmann et al. 2003).
Hormones function at minute concentrations, and so can hormone disruptors. Tiny amounts of substances, which may not have any effect on an exposed adult (either in terms of hormone disruption or other effects such as cancer) have been shown to significantly alter the development of offspring. A mother involuntarily passes the contaminants in her body to her offspring, yet she may be completely unaffected.
Hormone-disruptors do not cause mutations — they cause their harm by interfering with an individual’s hormones mimicking estrogen in the receptor sites. While their impact may mean the individual has less reproductive potential, it appears that the damage is not passed on genetically.
Preventing exposure to hormone-disrupters can protect future generations. This means stopping ongoing exposure and taking steps to reduce the chemical body burden every person carries. Since we are more likely to be exposed to endocrine-disrupting and toxic chemicals in our home or at work we need to evaluate that environment first.
Effective ways act against the personal threat of hormone disruption for individuals concerned about their hormone challenges is reduce personal exposure to toxic chemicals and exercise consumer power by making thoughtful purchases. These include:
- eat organic foods as much as possible
- purchase personal care products which are free of hormone-disrupters
- use laundry products and cleaning products which break down in our environment
- make informed decisions regarding the use of hormone therapies
- evaluate personal hormone levels annually with a saliva test.
- elect to use a natural hormone-balancing program to maintain hormone health.
We Can and Must Make A Difference in Our Hormone Health!