The ‘villains’ here are the chemicals which disrupt the hormone system – also known as ‘endocrine disrupting chemicals’ (EDCs) – which may be behind significant increases in cancers, diabetes and obesity, falling fertility, and an increased number of neurological development problems in both humans and animals.
This damning indictment comes from a review of 15 years worth of scientific literature commissioned by the European Environment Agency (EEA). The breadth of the effects of these EDC’s is something that we may not be aware of and how they can potentially affect our health.
In recent decades, there has been a significant growth in many human diseases and disorders including breast and prostate cancer, male infertility and diabetes. Many scientists think that this growth is connected to the rising levels of exposure to mixtures of some chemicals in widespread use.
It is virtually impossible to avoid the chemicals that can potentially disrupt the endocrine system. They are all around us in our food, drugs, pesticides, household products and cosmetics. We are exposed to them in the environment, or via water or the food chain where the chemicals can build up.
EEA Executive Director Jacqueline McGlade said “Scientific research gathered over the last few decades shows us that endocrine disruption is a real problem, with serious effects on wildlife, and possibly people.” This issue has been under study by both regulatory authorities and scientists together and their conclusion? “It would be prudent to take a precautionary approach to many of these chemicals until their effects are more fully understood.”
Of particular concern is the effect these chemicals can have on early development of, for example, the brain, reproductive, immune and metabolic systems. These are not immediately apparent in children but may be detrimental in ways that are often invisible until several years or sometimes decades after exposure.
Cancer, Thyroid and Fertility Risks
There is now a large body of evidence linking chemical exposure to thyroid, immune, reproductive and neurological problems in animals, and many of the same or similar diseases and disorders have been observed to be on the rise in the human population as well.
The link between some diseases and EDCs is now accepted – in particular that exposure to oestrogen or to oestrogenic EDCs is an accepted risk factor for breast cancer, endometriosis, fibroids and polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) in women.
- Breast cancer rates are increasing in almost all industrialised countries and the majority are due to lifestyles and environmental exposures, rather than specific genetic factors as in the past.
- Some studies have also linked EDCs to thyroid disease and thyroid cancer rates have increased by between 5 % (Switzerland) and 155 % (France), particularly in women, children and young adults.
- Nor are men immune to the effects as some EDCs may also cause low quality semen and been linked to prostate cancer. It is estimated that approximately 40% of European men suffer from reduced fertility and that male reproductive problems are increasing in many countries.
Some persistent endocrine disrupting substances, such as DDT, TBT and PCBs are now banned or restricted in their use but scientists are concerned that many chemicals that are still in use also affect the human reproductive system, and therefore its hormonal balance. The most common offender is Bisphenol A (BPA), which makes plastic hard and clear, is found in epoxy resins that are used to line the inside of metal food and drink cans. It is an endocrine disrupter that can lead to chromosomal errors in the developing foetus, triggering spontaneous miscarriages and genetic damage as well as adverse health outcomes, affecting brain development and increasing susceptibility to cancer later in life.
What Can You Do?
Maintaining good hormone balance is essential as the protective role of progesterone will balance the excess oestrogen that is at the heart of many of the health risks associated with these chemical disrupters. It is known to assist with protection against breast and endometrial cancers and to support thyroid function. Excess estrogen can lead to Estrogen Dominance and the findings in the current study suggest that human exposure to BPA is much higher than some prior estimates.
As well as getting your hormones in balance, these simple measures will help limit your exposure to these chemicals:
1. Use glass, not plastic, containers for food, water and cooking. Avoid non-stick cookware.
2. Limit chemical cleaners and go for natural and organic ones where possible. Particularly avoid air fresheners and fabric softeners with synthetic fragrances.
3. Limit your intake of processed food, and eliminate chemical sweeteners.
4. Change a plastic shower curtain for a glass screen or natural fabric curtain. Check the labels of your shampoo, toothpaste, antiperspirants and cosmetics and go as natural as you can to avoid chemical additives.
5. At home look for green, toxin-free alternatives for paint and floor coverings.
6. In the garden look for safe, effective and natural alternatives to pesticides or insect repellants.
If you would like to read more about bioidentical natural progesterone’s protective role, please see the following articles: