Hormones are chemical messengers secreted by glands, which travel through the bloodstream to reach the cells where they act upon receptors.
As we have already seen, they control all of our bodily functions: blood pressure, heart beats, blood sugar, fertility, immune functions, our humor and emotions, our sleep quality, the water content in our body, our calcium levels, the water we ingest, the urine we excrete…all metabolic functions designed to keep us healthy are controlled by our hormonal system.
Hormones connect to receptors in our cells and tell them what to do.
It is very much like a lock and key; hormone A fits into the receptor for hormone A. Hormone B would not fit into this same receptor. EDCs (Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals) are chemical products that can mimic the form of the hormone thus acting upon the receptor instead of the actual hormone. By connecting to the hormone receptor, endocrine disruptors may limit the intended effect, or block it entirely resulting in anomalies.
Due to this hormonal interference, serious consequences may occur.
Plastic is the main endocrine disruptor.
This is because plastics are composed of substances that are similar to estradiol, such as bisphenol A (BPA), which in turn act upon the estradiol receptor, thereby interfering with its correct functioning.
Substances like Bisphenol A, which act in very similar ways on estradiol and occupy its cell receptors are called Xenoestrogens.
Plastic and xenoestrogens may be found in various things that we use on a daily basis. The coating in tin cans (BPA), plastics, “fragrances”, detergents, perfumes, shampoo, soap, pesticides, insecticides, herbicides. Chemical dry-cleaning products, non-stick pots and pans, personal higene products, metals, industrial chemicals, pharmaceutical medication, non-bioidentical hormones…
Even if they do not contain BPA, plastics have other EDCs in their composition such as formaldehyde, phthalates, benzene, vinyl dioxin and chloride, among others. In reality, there are over 85.000 known EDCs and we can find them everywhere.
Our body has over 200 toxic products inside it at any given time and they can disturb our endocrine system.
And if we think that small doses cannot affect us, and that only large doses can be a problem, we could not be more wrong due to the accumulated effects of different toxins we concomitantly have. The negative impacts on our health can be observed by noting the immense consequent alterations.
Stop using plastic bags right now, or re-use them frequently if you do have to. Preferably use cloth bags. A plastic bag spends an average of 12 minutes in our hands but will spend an eternity decomposing in nature.
The observed negative impacts on our health are as follow:
Fertility has decreased by 50% in the last 50 years due not only to lower sperm quality but also due to endometriosis, polycystic ovarian syndrome, abortions…
Anomalies in both the male, as well as the female reproductive tracts have duplicated in the last 50 years. Cases like intersexuality or ambiguous genitalia are more frequent. These are cases where we are only able to ascertain the baby’s sex at birth.
Alterations in the relations existing between masculine and feminine hormones in both sexes is giving way to a growing number of men with effeminate bodies and women with very strong and distinguished male traits.
Obesity, diabetes and heart problems are also growing each year.
In the U.S.A., one in every five children is obese, and in adults it is one in ten.
Diabetes is increasing by more than 5% per year in some countries!
In the past, we used to classify type 2 diabetes as a “disease in its initial phase in adults”, but now we see children as young as five years old with type 2 diabetes!
Heart disease is the most frequent cause of death in the civilized world, in other words, in countries with the most endocrine disruptors.
Premature puberty is yet another problem. The average age for the first period in the days of our grandparents was 16; today we see girls menstruating as early as eight and nine years old! We are forgetting what “normal” is. And premature puberty is connected to serious problems such as psychological disturbances, depression, short stature and higher breast cancer rates.
Cancer, which also lowers our immune system response, is a problem which worries us more and more.
Breast, prostate, thyroid, and pancreatic cancer are amongst the most common in said “civilized” populations.
Testicular cancer has increased by 400% since 1943 and it is the most common tumor in young adults.
Factors related to a higher risk for testicular cancer are: testicles that do not descend, small penis size, and a reduced anogenital distance. We are able to reproduce all these problem in lab rats simply by using phthalates, a component in plastic. There appears to be a direct connection.
Laboratorially, we are also able to connect asthma to bisphenol A, another component in plastic. And we are witnessing many more cognitive and behavioral problems, as well as problems related to brain development. Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder is a “disease” that was not even in the books when I was at university! It is a “new” disease. Children are increasingly more medicated and who knows what disturbances will follow as a result in future. It am still incensed by the ease with which children are prescribed clonazepam or melatonin because most are hyper-diagnosed as “hyper-active.
We will have a generation with numerous problems in the future.
And the greater risks are actually during prenatal development and the immediate post-natal, when organs and the nervous system are still developing.
We could say that the greatest danger is with newborns. They have hundreds/thousands of chemical products in their bodies. Even though a determined dose of a chemical disruptive product will not adversely affect the adult mother, the same dose may cause substantial damage to a newborn still in development.
Studies from samples of the umbilical cords of newborns have shown to contain the presence of BPA and phthalates.
Chemical products have been associated to liver disease, infertility, and chromosomal abnormalities, among others.
Nine out of ten Americans have BPA in their blood! Studies conducted indicated that 99% of the pregnant women studied had PFC (perfluorinated chemical compounds, which are used in non-adherent pots and pans) and PBDE (Polybrominated Diphenyl ethers, which are used in fire retardants) in their blood!
We cannot forget the threat plastics pose to humanity. Some specialists affirm that in 200 years humanity may be extinct.
What can we do? Where do so many endocrine disruptors (EDCs) come from?
They come from most anywhere. From the food we eat, the water we drink, the air we breathe, absorbed through the skin, from mother to fetus via the umbilical cord…
The products we use on a daily basis may contain EDCs: plastics, furniture, coatings, paper, cups and cans (are all coated in a substance containing Bisphenal A (BPA).
Among the most common chemical toxins we have:
Formaldehyde – contained in carpets, paint, glass wool, beer, wine, synthetic glues, varnish and other finishings, cosmetics, shampoos, toothpaste and mouthwash, etc.
Organochloride compounds – present in pesticides, grease solvents, plastic resin (PVC, Polyvinyl chloride; PCB, polychlorinated biphenyls, both powerful carcinogens used in plastic materials and electrical equipment).
Pentachlorophenol – forbidden for household use but allowed in industry and used as a coating in wood, glues, paint and leather impregnation.
The pollutants and toxins we come across on a daily basis are innumerous. Approximately 120.000 have been identified, therefore our daily exposure to them is inevitable.
I was very surprised to discover, for example that teabags and paper receipts both contain plastic.
The thermal paper used in your run of the mill restaurant or supermarket receipt uses paper coated in a substance that contains BPA in order for it to be printable.
Once again, a reminder that food is the source of most chemical products in our bodies, since its storage, transportation, cooking, food-processing, even the recipients used to cook the food, release substances that enter into our bloodstream.
All of these chemical products will have an impact on our hormone receptors, secretion, transportation and metabolism.
Eating and drinking from cans increases our exposure to BPA by up to 1600%.
Even water, the source of life, may be a toxic cocktail if bottled and exposed to heat. A single glass of water may contain up to 2.500 different chemical contaminants. The “source of life” is killing us in a silent epidemic.
A good water filter may reduce exposure to the lead in drinking water. Lead is highly toxic to the brain and may lead to a loss of I.Q. (intelligence coefficient) as well as irreversible brain damage.
But even using a “good” filter will not remove “all” the toxins. Also the filter should be cleaned frequently so as not to be the source of other problems such as undesirable bacteria.
Pregnant women in particular should be extremely careful since this is the one time they can alter the conditions the baby is formed under…for better or for worse…
Pregnant women should be well informed about this problem and take extra precautions but so few are, and the majority do not even consider it.
We are all responsible, and should therefore, all act.
• Always check labels and avoid products that contain EDCs that you recognize (which will be difficult because there are thousands of them, and even if there is a label, the lettering is so small, it makes it difficult to read, or is just plain incomprehensible to the general population.)
• Eat organic and not processed foods. This is my number one golden rule! Processed food is anything that has been through an alteration process. An example is when you shop at a natural food product store, where you can see about half a dozen natural, raw foods but everything else seems to be packaged. And basically everything you see inside a package has undergone a process of alteration before arriving at said shop. Examples include: water and salt based biscuits (the best name ever invented for a processed food, even though there are many who believe that the biscuit is predominantly water and salt), the supposedly extra healthy corn biscuits, without gluten, soy, mostly genetically modified, processed meats (ham, bacon, etc.), zero everything gelatins, food without any fat, sugars, yogurt stored in plastic containers, and anything stored in plastic containers, which are porous and release chemical substances into the food and so forth. Imagine all the foods that need stabilizers, additives, and preservatives in order to be kept in a package and conserved. And imagine that in addition to these additives, stabilizers and preservatives, there are a thousand and one more endocrine disruptors that are released during the transportation and storage process, by the machines where that food was processed, and the cooking process it underwent, etc.
• Make an effort to protect your family and your children against risky products (for example, plastic toys).
• Be extra alert during pregnancy.
• Limit plastic waste to guarantee that the toxins contained within are not released.
• Reduce the use of plastic in your life.
Laws that mandate strict testing of all products before they come onto the market would be highly useful in helping reduce our exposure to them.
Many times, studies carried out and tests developed do not reflect what will happen in a close future since the majority are not done over long periods of time, and where we are unable to consider the cumulative effects mentioned earlier.
Many times only empirical verification can enlighten us.
We need a political reaction to try to put a brake on what is happening. Perhaps it is already too late to try to alter the course of the history of humanity but we have to keep trying in order to leave a valid legacy for future generations.
It is impossible to know that there are phthalates in the slippers we wear, PBDE in our TV’s remote control, and BPA in the orthodontic products used by our dentist.
Some specialists believe that in 200 years the human race may be extinct! 200 years is nothing. Think of your children and their grand-children.
Think about leaving a better World for future generations. The future of humanity is at risk. We need to act now! And it may already be too late. We do not have the right to kill.