Chemicals and Hormones – Are the Effects Real?
Our hormonal system is such a complex machine. It contains a variety of hormones including insulin, thyroxin, cortisol, estrogen, progesterone, testosterone and DHEA. All of these hormones engage in complex interactions with each other, working via lock and key mechanisms, affecting the function and structure of our bodies. It’s helpful to think of each of your body tissues—like your uterus, or your ovaries, or your liver cells— as holding locks, while the hormones are the keys that can turn the locks and induce different biological functions. For example: when insulin reaches the lock on a fat cell, it causes sugar to be taken up into that cell and stored as fat. Or, when estrogen enters the lock on a uterine lining cell, it causes the uterine lining to build and thicken. Thus, these hormones are able to control a vast amount of functions in the human body.
In recent years, a growing number of synthetic chemicals have been introduced into our environment, in the form of plastics, resins, and pesticides. We are exposed to these compounds in many ways, such as through food, cleaning products, toys, cosmetics, building materials, carpets, fire retardants, cars, dental sealants, and more.
Toxic Chemicals and Hormones are Similar in Structure
Structurally, many of these chemicals resemble hormones: Like keys, these chemicals can open those same locks that hormones do in your body, causing disruption to the delicate balance of biology in humans, ranging from fetus to adult. This effect is far-reaching and affects nearly every system in the body.
According to TedX, an organization that tracks scientific research on endocrine-disrupting chemicals, 870 chemicals can currently be classified as hormone disruptors. Each of these chemicals is associated with specific scientific data suggesting that they cause direct effects on the endocrine glands and their hormones, such as estrogen, testosterone, and insulin. These hormones also cause cascading effects on our other body systems. As such, endocrine-disrupting chemicals affect reproductive function and fetal development, the nervous system, the liver, bones, the heart, the metabolism and nearly all body systems.
It’s no wonder that infertility is on the rise.
TedX also mentions that fossil fuels, and their extraction, cause huge amounts of chemical products to be released into the environment. These chemicals can actually be found in our tissues, including the womb. They have effects on ovaries that can change our actual genetics, passing through generations.
The following diseases have been associated with chemical hormone disruptors: infertility, autism, Alzheimer’s disease, childhood, pubertal and adult cancers, obesity, diabetes, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, and abnormal genitalia,
This quote by TEDx is quite sobering
Setting aside the effects of endocrine disruptors on infertility, and just considering their influence on intelligence and behavior alone, it is possible that hormone disruption could pose a more imminent threat to humankind than climate change.
Please view the video above to see how males, in particular, are affected by endocrine-disrupting chemicals.
- Bushnik T, Cook JL, Yuzpe AA, Tough S, Collins J. Estimating the prevalence of infertility in Canada. Hum Reprod. 2012 Mar;27(3):738-46. doi: 10.1093/humrep/der465.
- Epub 2012 Jan 17. Erratum in: Hum Reprod. 2013 Apr;28(4):1151 Chemically Induced Alterations in Sexual and Functional Development: The Wildlife/Human Connection. Princeton Scientific Publishing, Princeton, NJ. pp493.
- Zama AM, Uzumcu M. Epigenetic effects of endocrine-disrupting chemicals on female reproduction: an ovarian perspective. Front Neuroendocrinol. 2010 Oct;31(4):420-39. doi: 10.1016/j.yfrne.2010.06.003. Epub 2010 Jul 4. Review.