Endocrine Disruptor Compounds and Your Hormones

By Dr. Linda J. Dobberstein, DC, Board Certified in Clinical Nutrition

June 9, 2014

Endocrine Disruptor Compounds and Your Hormones
Our world is polluted. There is no doubt about that. It is shocking though, at how far reaching the problem has become. It is even more shocking when critics ignore the evidence presented by the World Health Organization and the United Nations Environment Program and claim it is one sided. Endocrine Disruptor Compounds are a real problem and each person needs to take personal responsibility to reduce their impact on our health and our planet.

Endocrine Disruptor Compounds or EDCs are now detected in nearly every human or animal that is tested even in the remotest, pristine regions of the country. A 2009 study showed that there were over 358 chemicals detected in the cord blood of minority newborns in America. The CDC found bisphenol A in over 90% of urine samples in U.S. population. The list doesn’t stop there.

The World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Environment Programs released their findings last year in the State of the Art Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals 2012. There is absolutely no doubt that endocrine related diseases and disorders are on the rise. The incidence of infertility, genetic malformations, endocrine cancer, and other hormonal disruption is skyrocketing. WHO clearly states that disease risk due to EDCs may be significantly underestimated in both humans and wildlife. Here are some startling facts:

• In a number of countries, up to 40% of young men have low semen quality, resulting in infertility.

• The incidence of genital malformations in baby boys has increased over the last several years.

• The incidence of adverse pregnancy outcomes such as low birth weight and preterm birth has increased in several countries.

• Global rates of endocrine-related cancer (breast, endometrial, ovarian, prostate, testicular, and thyroid) have been increasing dramatically over the past 40-50 years.

• There is a global trend for earlier breast development in young girls in all countries.

• There are nearly 800 chemicals known or suspected to be capable of interfering with hormone function, but only a tiny fraction has been studied.

• WHO admits the fact that humans and wildlife are exposed to far more EDCs than just 10 years, and the levels are increasing. The rate of increase is not due to genetic factors as the sole explanation.

• Children have higher exposures to chemicals compared to adults because of their higher metabolic rate and hand-to-mouth activity. Clearly the most vulnerable exposure time and risk for adverse effect in humans and wildlife is in-utero exposure.

• EDCs can exert endocrine disrupting activity on more than just estrogen, androgen, and thyroid hormone action. Some compounds are known to interact with multiple hormone receptors simultaneously. Adrenal function, bone disorders, obesity, Metabolic Syndrome, and Type I & II Diabetes are linked with EDCs.

EDCs: What They Are and Where They Are Found

Endocrine Disrupting Compounds are found everywhere. They are in our food, water, and air supply. We get them from plastics, cleaning products, pesticides, herbicides, insecticides, bottles and cans, industrial chemicals and solvents, flame retardants. They are in our cosmetics, mattresses, cars and car parts, clothing, medical supplies (any plastic tubing – IVs, CPAPs, nasogastric tubes, etc), plastic containers, plastic wraps around our food, toys, dental sealants and some composite fillings, water pipes, computers, printers, inks, newspaper, Smart-phones, iPads, thermal credit card receipts, personal care products, perfumes, air fresheners, dryer sheets, sunscreens, most recycled paper, paper towels, and so many other places. They are everywhere.

These EDCs are compounds that interfere with the production, metabolism, or activity of hormones. The tissues and hormones that are affected in the body can be anything, but commonly affect thyroid, ovaries, prostate, breast, adrenals, pancreas, thymus, adipose tissue, brain, HPA axis, immune, nervous, and cardiovascular system. This includes all the receptors sites for estrogen, progesterone, testosterone, and androgens. All hormonal systems are susceptible to the effects of EDCs - keep in mind that there are two hormones that affect every single cell of the body – thyroid and vitamin D.

Some of the main categories of Endocrine Disrupting Compounds are:

• Solvents/lubricants/flame retardants: PCBs, PBBs, and PBDEs
• Plastics and plasticizer: (BPA, phthalates)
• Pesticides, insecticides, and fungicides
• Heavy Metals: cadmium, lead, arsenic, mercury
• Pharmaceutical agents: phytohormones, hormones, and DES.

These EDC compounds have been shown to influence various sex steroid hormone functions. The compounds will either act as:

1. Estrogen receptor agonist (act like estrogen)

Common sources include herbicides, fungicides, insecticides, Bisphenol-A (BPA), cadmium, and other industrial chemicals. Cadmium is found in contaminated soils and water, tobacco smoke, factory sites and hazardous waste sites, paints, and fertilizers, etc.

2. Testosterone synthesis inhibitor

Common sources include phlalates and Bisphenol-A.

3. Androgen receptor antagonist or agonist

Common sources herbicides, fungicides, insecticides, and Bisphenol-A.

4. Thyroid hormone transport inhibitor

Common sources include industrial chemicals (Dioxin, PBDEs, PCBs,) triclosan, perchlorates and Bisphenol A.

As you can see, all four of these hormone pathways have BPA listed. Bisphenol-A is the worst of these offenders and has many deleterious effects. These toxins are also considered obesogens and inhibit leptin function.

Evidence is mounting regarding low dose EDCs in utero and neonatal exposure and the risk for disease expression decades later in life or into the next generation. Disorders potentially linked include endometriosis, breast cancer, PCOS, infertility, prostate cancer, testicular cancer, osteoporosis, thyroid disorders, diabetes, obesity, autoimmune disorders, autism, ADD/ADHD, asthma, and leptin resistance.

Tylenol, Aspirin, and Indomethacin

If that is not enough to open your eyes, consider this. Paracetamol, a.k.a acetaminophen, along with aspirin and indomethacin have now been identified as EDCs. These apparently benign analgesics are taken by millions on a daily basis. They have been shown to cause endocrine disturbances in the human adult testis in vitro. If you haven’t stopped taking the NSAIDs as a result of learning about the Black Box warning in the recent newsletter, Advanced Solutions for Osteoarthritis, this should be a major wake up call as it hits men where human survival counts. This isn’t just a wake up call for men; it applies to women as well. Women, who take these same medications when pregnant, are more likely to give birth to boys who display cryptochidism (undescended testes). In a study done over 20 years ago, there was no thought to whether aspirin, indomethacin, or acetominophen could affect endocrine function during pregnancy for mother or fetus. These drugs have been in wide use since the 1970’s and medical research is just now starting to understand these disturbing effects. This means there are at least two generations affected by these drugs with the critical time period of in-utero exposure and on-going low dose exposure.

Natural Gas Drilling

On a completely different frontier, and in the interest of finding natural resources in the U.S., natural gas drilling operations and hydraulic fracturing has been heavily linked with EDCs. The study published in Endocrinology March 2014, showed higher amounts of endocrine disrupting compounds were found in ground water near the sites of natural gas drilling operations. “Of the 39 unique water samples (in Garfield County, Colorado), 89%, 41%, 12%, and 46% exhibited estrogenic, antiestrogenic, androgenic, and antiandrogenic activities, respectively. Testing of a subset of natural gas drilling chemicals revealed novel antiestrogenic, novel antiandrogenic, and limited estrogenic activities. Our data suggest that natural gas drilling operations may result in elevated endocrine-disrupting chemical activity in surface and ground water.” This means that the natural gas spills are causing moderate to high levels of unique EDCs compounds dumping into the Colorado River basin. The beautiful Colorado River is not so beautiful anymore and neither are the other regions of our country dealing with these natural gas drilling operations.

So now what? Your vacation plans to travel down the Colorado River, the hot BPA lined cup of coffee you get every morning at the local coffee shop while surfing on your smart phone, the warm plastic water bottle that you drink out of after going for a hike, the mattress loaded with flame retardants and memory foam that you sleep on every night, the new lengthening lashes mascara and nail polish that you use are all loaded with these EDCs. It’s enough to make you want to crawl into a bubble, but don’t do it. It’s plastic.

In order for us, our children, generations to come, and our precious planet to continue to survive and thrive, we must be proactive about protecting ourselves from these insidious and outright exposures with our choices. We must also fortify our body’s detoxification processes.

Basic Tips

Focus on reducing the biggest exposures in your life. Here are some common situations.

1. Avoid plastics marked with recycling numbers #3, 6 and 7. These are the worst offenders. Generally safer plastics are 1, 2, 4, and 5. Do not microwave with plastic containers or plastic wrap.

2. Use shower filters and filters for your drinking and cooking water.

3. Choose food packaging not laced with BPA lining. Common sources are canned items, juice boxes, and lined bags. Look for food products labeled as BPA free.

4. Eat organic foods, especially animal based food choices (fish, meat, dairy, butter, eggs). Conventional food sources have higher amounts of EDCs. These EDCs are stored in the fats of the foods from when the animal/fish was exposed to them in its own food, soil, water, and air exposure.

5. If you have to handle thermal register receipts, wash your hands immediately after coming in contact or don’t take the copy. Thermal receipts contain BPA. Throw the receipts in the trash, not recycling as it contaminates the other products. Anyone working at the local coffee shop, gas station, or retail handling thermal credit card receipts all day absolutely must be proactive in reducing exposure and supporting daily detoxification.

6. Get the electronics out of the bedroom. EDCs from electronics are harbored in dust which you breathe in.

7. Bring your own glass or stainless steel coffee cup to your coffee shop or work. Use other BPA free cutlery, table settings, and beverages rather than plastic when you are eating.

8. Choose organic coffee. Conventional coffee (regular and decaffeinated) is loaded with pesticides and other chemicals.

9. Replace your memory foam mattress with a new, organic wool, cotton, or natural latex mattress.

10. Get rid of the vinyl shower curtain and synthetic fragrances, parabens, and pthalates in your bathroom or personal care products (cosmetics and nail polish). Taking a hot shower with chlorine, fluoride, and with these chemicals showers your lungs and brain with these aerosolized chemicals. Filter your shower, get a cloth shower curtain, and use organic hair, skin, and cosmetic products. Cosmetics are some of the worst sources for EDCs as the industry is unregulated. Always read the product label to ensure no hidden sources. There are searchable online databases for this concern.

11. Sweat. Our skin provides a major detoxification path. Breaking a sweat with physical activity or using FIR (far infrared saunas) provides methods of detoxifying these chemicals out of fat. When using a FIR, consult a qualified health care professional for guidance. Nutritional needs can be markedly increased with FIR or any sauna use. Basic support includes silymarin, zinc, msm, vitamin C, chlorella, and R-alpha lipoic acid.

12. If you live near or in an area with higher amounts of exposure – orchards, golf courses, airports, major freeways, gas stations, manufacturing facilities, toxic waste dumps, conventional agricultural areas, etc. you have to be more proactive about protecting yourself and the food, water, clothing, and personal care products that you use. To find out more about what your neighborhood may be dealing with, go to Scorecard and Toxnet.

13. Don’t forget to take care of your children and be especially proactive if in family planning stages or pregnancy. It is critical for us to protect them.

There is no way around this. These concerns are here to stay and will take years to understand and decades to resolve. Each of us has to make personal choices. Cancer affects nearly one out of every two individuals and is clearly intertwined with these EDCs. Which one of the two do you want to be? What daily choices and habits are you going to make? The only way to fight this battle is to make personal choices for you and your loved ones. Don’t ignore this battle. There is too much at stake.

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