What are endocrine disruptors and why you should know

What are endocrine disruptors and why you should know

Aart Jan van der Lely, The Netherlands

Endocrine disruptors are chemical substances that can interfere with the normal functioning of the endocrine system, which is responsible for producing hormones that regulate various body functions. These chemicals can mimic or block the action of hormones, leading to an imbalance in the body’s hormonal system.

There are many sources of endocrine disruptors, including pesticides, herbicides, and industrial chemicals. They can also be found in certain plastics, personal care products, and food packaging. The most well-known endocrine disruptor is probably bisphenol A (BPA), which is found in many plastics and has been linked to a number of health problems, including fertility issues and cancer.

Endocrine disruptors can have a range of harmful effects on human health, depending on the specific chemical and the amount of exposure. Some of the potential health impacts include:

  • Reproductive problems: Endocrine disruptors can affect the normal functioning of the reproductive system, leading to infertility, birth defects, and other reproductive problems.
  • Cancer: Some endocrine disruptors have been linked to an increased risk of certain types of cancer, such as breast, ovarian, and prostate cancer.
  • Developmental problems: Exposure to endocrine disruptors during fetal development and early childhood can lead to developmental problems, including learning and behavioral disorders.
  • Thyroid problems: Endocrine disruptors can interfere with the normal functioning of the thyroid gland, leading to thyroid problems such as hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism.
  • Metabolic disorders: Endocrine disruptors can disrupt the normal functioning of the body’s metabolism, leading to conditions such as obesity and diabetes.

Endocrine disruptors can also have harmful effects on wildlife and the environment. For example, some chemicals have been linked to the feminization of male fish, leading to population declines.

There is ongoing research on the health effects of endocrine disruptors, and it is clear that more needs to be done to understand the full extent of the risks they pose. In the meantime, there are steps that individuals can take to reduce their exposure to these chemicals. These include using natural or organic personal care products, avoiding products with questionable chemicals, and using glass or stainless-steel containers instead of plastic for food storage.

Overall, endocrine disruptors are a major public health concern, and more needs to be done to address the risks they pose. It is important for individuals to be aware of the potential sources of these chemicals and to take steps to reduce their exposure. By taking these precautions, we can help protect ourselves and future generations from the harmful effects of endocrine disruptors.


For further reading:

  1. Bisphenol-A and Female Fertility: An Update of Existing Epidemiological Studies. Stavridis K, Triantafyllidou O, Pisimisi M, Vlahos N. J Clin Med. 2022 Dec 5;11(23):7227. doi: 10.3390/jcm11237227.
  2. Impact of Nanoparticles on Male Fertility: What Do We Really Know? A Systematic Review. Klein JP, Mery L, Boudard D, Ravel C, Cottier M, Bitounis D. Int J Mol Sci. 2022 Dec 29;24(1):576. doi: 10.3390/ijms24010576.
  3. The effects of endocrine-disrupting chemicals on ovarian- and ovulation-related fertility outcomes. Land KL, Miller FG, Fugate AC, Hannon PR. Mol Reprod Dev. 2022 Dec;89(12):608-631. doi: 10.1002/mrd.23652. Epub 2022 Nov 19.

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