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New report raises concern over commonly used hormone-disrupting chemicals: 'There may be no safe dose for exposure'

"We need a global approach to controlling EDCs based on the latest science."

"We need a global approach to controlling EDCs based on the latest science."

Photo Credit: iStock

New research by the Endocrine Society and the International Pollutants Elimination Network presented strong evidence that widely used hormone-disrupting industrial chemicals have led to the growth of diseases worldwide, per Mongabay.

What's happening?

The detailed report included updated scientific research on endocrine-disrupting properties of various substances, finding that these chemicals can cause serious health problems. 

Reproductive disorders, cancer, heart disease, diabetes, obesity, neurological conditions, chronic inflammation, and reduced immune functioning were all listed as possible health issues caused by endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs).

These toxic chemicals impair our hormones' natural functioning, affecting our metabolism, immune system, fertility, and more. 

The report estimated that over 24% of human diseases are caused by environmental factors such as EDC exposure, and these factors contribute to 80% of the most life-threatening illnesses, such as heart disease and cancer. 

While people can be exposed to these hazardous chemicals in many ways, researchers reviewed four significant sources of exposure: plastics, pesticides, household and children's products, and industrial chemicals such as PFAS (perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances). 

Why is exposure to hormone-disrupting chemicals concerning?

As Mongabay explained, current EDC regulations are too lax and presume health impacts at high levels of exposure. Researchers say the global legislation on EDCs is outdated and doesn't take into account the latest scientific knowledge on the chemicals.

"We know that even very low doses of endocrine-disrupting chemicals can cause health problems, and there may be no safe dose for exposure to EDCs. However, regulations typically do not protect against low-dose effects," IPEN science advisor Sara Brosché, Ph.D., said in a press release on the report. 

"We need a global approach to controlling EDCs based on the latest science with a goal of protecting the human right to a healthy environment," she added.

The researchers said in the report that of the 350,000 chemicals manufactured globally, thousands could be EDCs. Because many of these chemicals weren't tested for their effects on human health before hitting the market — and since regulations haven't kept up with recent research — scientists are sounding the alarm on their potential impacts.

EDCs are also polluting the water, air, and soil, per Mongabay, with the Global South being the most heavily impacted. The outlet reported that highly toxic agricultural pesticides used in Brazil are leading to rising child cancer deaths. In addition, India still manufactures DDT, a harmful insecticide banned in the U.S. in 1972

What's being done about it?

Researchers advocated for stricter international regulations to ban the production and use of these chemicals. According to Mongabay, the European Union agreed to ban harmful chemicals in consumer products in 2020. 

In addition, an international plastics treaty to fight plastic pollution and tackle harmful chemicals used in production should be finalized by the end of this year.

Scientists are working on cleaning up the toxic chemicals in our environment, from the forever chemicals in tap water to air pollution in our homes.

We can also limit our exposure to hormone disruptors by purchasing stainless steel reusable water bottles and silicone food containers, in addition to switching to a native lawn that doesn't require chemical inputs and fertilizers.  

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