Chemicals that disrupt hormones and how to minimize exposure

Hormone Disruptors – The Biggest Hormone Disruptors

Hormones are messengers that signal to our body’s glands and organs, regulating core functions like growth and development, reproduction, sex drive, metabolism, sleep and stress. But certain chemicals called endocrine disruptors throw off the delicate balance of our hormone system.

Fortunately, there are steps we can take to minimize exposure. Start with ditching plastic water bottles, buying organic strawberries and eating fresh, unprocessed foods.

1. Bisphenol A (BPA)

Bisphenol A (BPA) is one of the highest volume chemicals produced worldwide, used primarily as a starting material and plasticizer in polycarbonate production. Approximately 90% of Americans have BPA metabolites in their urine, and BPA is found in the blood of nearly all people over the age of 6.

Endocrine disruptors mimic hormones and can interfere with their normal actions. They are usually more harmful at higher levels of exposure, and their effects can differ depending on the stage of life when they are exposed.

BPA binds to estrogen receptors, and alters cellular responses to hormones, including induction of insulin resistance, adiposogenesis, and pancreatic beta-cell dysfunction. It also up-regulates HOXB9, which is associated with chemoresistance in cancer. These changes can have serious consequences for patients on chemotherapy.

2. Phthalates

Phthalates are a huge class of chemicals used in the manufacturing of plastic (most commonly a type of plastic called polyvinyl chloride or vinyl). They are added to plastic products as plasticizers to make them flexible.

In laboratory studies, phthalates have been linked to lowered testosterone levels and reproductive organ changes in males. The chemicals are also suspected endocrine disruptors, which interfere with the biosynthesis, secretion, action or metabolism of naturally occurring hormones.

Like BPA, phthalates affect key hormones involved in reproduction and development. They can alter hormone receptors and interfere with intracellular signaling pathways, among other things. You are exposed to phthalates when you pull back your shower curtain, put on your perfume and apply nail polish. They are also in the food you eat and the air you breathe.

3. Toluene

A volatile petrochemical solvent and paint thinner, toluene is found in a variety of products used in construction, cosmetics and fuel production. It is also a known carcinogen and a suspected neurotoxin. It has been linked to developmental defects in children born to mothers who have exposed themselves to toluene vapors during pregnancy.

Toluene has been shown to decrease ovarian cell viability and inhibit proliferation, apoptosis and secretion of LH and FSH in cultured granulosa cells. It has also been shown to reduce clastogenic activity when administered with benzene in the presence of sister chromatid exchanges (Dobrokhotov, 1972; Dobrokhotov & Enikeev, 1977). When toluene is released into the environment it generally enters water and soil from spills, or leaks from leaking underground storage tanks. It then evaporates rapidly and is converted to other chemicals in the air (benzaldehyde and cresol).

4. Formaldehyde

Formaldehyde is a chemical used in many manufacturing and household products including wood furniture, carpets, and some manufactured housing materials. It is also produced endogenously in the human body and is found in food and medicine.

Several animal studies have shown that exposure to formaldehyde during pregnancy and early childhood can lead to adverse reproductive outcomes, including menstrual abnormalities, infertility, and spontaneous abortions. However, the results from these studies vary widely depending on the study design, route of exposure and duration of exposure, as well as confounding factors.

UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health researchers have conducted the first-ever analysis of DNA damage from low doses of inhaled formaldehyde, using ultrasensitive liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry. They found that even long-term occupational exposure to formaldehyde — at concentrations that may be encountered in a workplace setting — did not cause detectable levels of exogenous DNA damage or increase the number of DNA monoadducts or DNA-protein crosslinks in rats.

5. Dioxin

The body relies on hormones to control development, metabolism and reproduction. Any chemical that mimics or interferes with those hormones can cause problems, including reproductive issues like changes in fertility and pregnancy loss, as well as a host of other health concerns.

Dioxins are widespread and are the unintentional byproducts of industrial processes such as the manufacture of polyvinyl chloride (PVC) products, the bleaching of paper with chlorine, and incinerating organic waste. They have a very long half-life in the environment, and they tend to accumulate in soil because they resist dilution by rainwater and can be taken up by fat tissue. Once they enter the human body, they are difficult to break down and are stored in fat cells, where they remain for a very long time.

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