In recent years, more and more evidence has emerged, showing that certain chemicals are causing damage to the endocrine system of both wildlife and humans. Male infertility, in particular, is on the rise, and about 250,000 fewer boys have been born in the last 30 years in the U.S. and Japan.
Scientists are linking these phenomena to an accumulation of “gender-bending” toxins called endocrine disruptors.
Based on the initial evidence, Congress passed the Food Quality Protection Act in 1996, which required the EPA to initiate the Endocrine Disruptor Screening Program (EDSP)  to screen pesticide chemicals and environmental contaminants for their potential to affect the endocrine systems of both animals and humans.
However, despite the fact that more than a decade has passed since the beginning of the program, the market is literally flooded with chemicals that have the potential to wreak havoc with your health. Especially when you’re exposed to them in a myriad of untested combinations.
Says CHEM Trust  director, Elizabeth Salter Green:
“Chemicals that have been shown to act together to affect male reproductive health should have their risks assessed together. Currently that is not the case, and unfortunately chemicals are looked at on an individual basis.
Therefore, government assurances that exposures are too low to have any effect just do not hold water because regulators do not take into account the additive actions of hormone disrupting chemicals.”
Why it’s critical to protect your endocrine system
Your endocrine system is a complex network of glands, hormones and receptors, which works in tandem with your nervous system to control all your bodily functions and processes.
The glands of your endocrine system and the hormones they release influence almost every cell, organ, and function of your body. It is instrumental in regulating mood, growth and development, tissue function, metabolism, as well as sexual function and reproductive processes.
Endocrine disrupters are substances or mixtures that alter the functions of your endocrine system and consequently cause adverse health effects, either in your body or in your offspring.
These types of chemicals can exert their effects by:
- Mimicking the biological activity of your hormones by binding to a cellular receptor. This can initiate your cell’s normal response to the naturally occurring hormone at the wrong time or to an excessive extent (agonistic effect).
- Binding to the receptor but not activating it. Instead the presence of the chemical on the receptor prevents binding of the natural hormone (antagonistic effect).
- Binding to transport proteins in your blood, thus altering the amounts of natural hormones that are present in your blood circulation.
- Interfering with the metabolic processes in your body, affecting the synthesis or breakdown rates of your natural hormones.
So far, the main areas of scientific study have focused on disruption to the hormones that play a major part in development and reproduction, mainly estrogens and androgens.
These hormones also influence your immune system and general metabolism.
The strongest evidence showing that exposure to environmental chemicals can lead to disruption of endocrine function comes from the bizarre changes seen in a number of wildlife species, such as male fish transforming into females; frogs developing a variety of defects like multiple testes or ovaries; and hermaphrodite bears, just to name a few.
The Dirty Dozen potential endocrine disrupters to avoid
Endocrine disrupting chemicals are everywhere these days. You are exposed to them from a variety of sources, including countless common household products, toys, personal care products, and cosmetics.
Here’s a list of twelve common agents with hormonal activity, i.e. potential endocrine disrupters:
1. Phthalates :
Exposure to phthalates can lead to incomplete testicular descent in fetuses. Phthalates are found in vinyl flooring, detergents, automotive plastics, soap, shampoo, deodorants, fragrances, hair spray, nail polish, plastic bags, food packaging, garden hoses, inflatable toys, blood-storage bags, and intravenous medical tubing.
2. Bisphenol A:
A common ingredient in many plastics, including those in reusable water bottles and resins lining some food cans and dental sealants, can change the course of fetal development in a way that increases your risk of breast cancer.
3. Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) :
Found in grease- and water-resistant coatings like Teflon and Gore-Tex, is a likely carcinogen.
4. Methoxychlor and Vinclozin:
An insecticide and a fungicide respectively, have been found to cause changes to male mice born for as many as four subsequent generations after the initial exposure.
5. Nonylphenol ethoxylates (NPEs):
Known to be potent endocrine disrupters, these chemicals affect gene expression by turning on or off certain genes, and interfere with the way your glandular system works. They mimic the female hormone estrogen, and have been implicated as one reason behind some marine species switching from male to female.
6. Bovine growth hormones:
Commonly added to commercial dairy have been implicated as a contributor to premature adolescence.
7. Soy products:
Soy products are loaded with hormone-like substances.
A food additive that’s been linked to reduced fertility.
This chemical in the U.S. water supply has been linked to lower fertility rates, hormone disruption and low sperm counts.
10. Synthetically produced pharmaceuticals:
Drugs that are intended to be highly hormonally active, such as contraceptive pills and treatments for hormone-responsive cancers. Your body is not designed to be exposed to these synthetic hormones, and long-term use will invariably increase your risk of developing serious chronic illness.
11. Other natural chemicals:
This includes toxins produced by components of plants (the so-called phytoestrogens, such as genistein or coumestrol) and certain fungi.
12. Other man-made chemicals and by-products released into the environment:
These include some pesticides (such as pyrethroids, linuron, vinclozolin, fenitrothion, DDT and other chlorinated compounds), and a number of industrial chemicals like polychlorinated biphenols (PCBs) and dioxins.
How these chemicals affect your health
Certain health patterns over recent decades suggest that endocrine disrupting chemicals are quietly at work. These include:
- declining sperm counts
- increased incidences of male children born with genital malformations
- increased incidences of certain hormone-sensitive types of cancer
- impaired neural development, causing memory problems and lower IQ
- impaired sexual behavior
- precocious puberty
- delayed sexual development
New York Times bestselling author Dr. Mercola graduated from the Chicago College of Osteopathic Medicine in 1982. And while osteopaths or D.O.s are licensed to prescribe medication and perform surgery just like medical doctors (M.D.s), they bring something extra to the practice of medicine.
Osteopathic physicians practice a "whole person" approach to medicine, treating the entire person — rather than just the symptoms. Focusing on preventive health care, D.O.s help patients develop attitudes and lifestyles that don't just fight illness, but help prevent it too.
Dr. Mercola is passionate about natural medicine and strongly believes that the current medical system is largely manipulated and controlled by large corporations whose primary focus is profit. His website, Mercola.com, which started as a small hobby interest in 1997, has now grown to today’s number one natural health website educating and empowering millions to take back the control over their own health.
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