It has been two memorable days that I shall never forget. People from all over the world sharing a common interest: the oceans and their importance to the future of humankind.
This year’s VOR edition theme is to “Turn the Tide on Plastic” and I still sense a significant degree of scepticism towards the damaging effects of plastics in our society, notwithstanding the evidence.
It was a great honour for me to have had the opportunity to be a key speaker at this event.
PLASTICS, HORMONES AND THE OCEANS
I have been exchanging ideas with people who, as Mirpuri Foundation and myself, are mindful of the threats plastics pose. However, individuals and organisations are powerless and thus unable to “Turn the Tide” by themselves. Governmental awareness, commitment and action are needed!
We already have 7 times more plastics in the oceans than plankton!
Animals are dying as they struggle to find food and are eating and being trapped in plastics. Nonetheless, most of us keep using and “eating” plastics: mainly non-recyclable as the colourful, “sexy”, mass-market plastic containers just cannot be recycled!
Even if we separate our household waste for recycling, we cannot be sure it will all be recycled; an average person uses a plastic bag, which will probably end up in the ocean, for about 11 minutes. We should rethink our way of living!
I have been a doctor for nearly 34 years. My everyday job is to treat Hormonal Imbalances: menopause, andropause, Thyroid issues, Obesity, menstrual problems…anything related to hormones, which is pretty much everything!
Hormones are chemical messengers, released mainly by glands, that travel through the blood stream to target cells. They control every function in our body: blood pressure, heart beat, blood sugar, fertility, immune function, our mood and emotions, our quality of sleep, our water content, our calcium level, the water we drink, the urine we excrete…every metabolic function aimed at keeping us healthy is controlled by the Hormonal system.
Hormones tell cells what to do, binding to specific receptors in these cells.
It is like a key in a lock: hormone A will fit the receptor for hormone A, and hormone B, will not fit this same receptor.
EDCs (Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals) are chemicals that can mimic the shape of the hormone and can go to the receptor instead.
They can mimic the hormone and enhance its effect, or they can block the effect of the hormone and trigger abnormal processes.
This can wreak havoc on the endocrine system and cause severe consequences.
Plastic is EDC #1! It is all over! And the reason is because plastic has in its composition, substances that are similar to the estradiol, like Bisfenol A (BPA) and so they go to the receptor of the estradiol, were it will interfere with the function of the natural hormone. Every substance that is similar to estradiol and can do this is called xenoestrogen.
And plastic and xenoestrogens can be found in several things that we use in our daily lives. Lining of cans (BPA), Plastics, Fragrances, Detergents, Perfumes, Shampoos, Soaps, Pesticides, Herbicides, Dry cleaning chemicals, Non-stick cookware, Personal care products, Metals, Industrial Chemicals, Pharmaceutical drugs, non-Bio-identical Hormones.
Even without BPA, plastics have on it composition other EDC like formaldeyde, phtalates, benzene, dioxin and vinyl chloride among others. As a matter of fact there are over 85.000 EDC already known, and we can find them all over. The more frequent are: Bisphenol-A (BPA- plastics…), Dioxin (meat, fish, eggs, butter…), Atrazine (herbicide , water…), Phthalates (plastic toys), personal care products…), Perchlorate (fuel, water…), Fire retardants (PBDE…), Lead (use a water filter, careful with paints…), Arsenic (poultry, water…), Mercury (seafood…), Per fluorinate chemicals (non-stick cookware,water resistant materials…), Organophosphate pesticides, Glycol ethers (solvent in , paints…).
Our bodies have around 200 toxic products at a moment and they can cause our hormones to work wrong.
And if we think that small doses will not get us any effect, and only big doses may be a problem, we could be not more wrong and outdated. When we take mix effects in consideration, levels risks go up. The effects appear to happen in an additive fashion.
The negative impacts on our health should not be underestimated, particularly regarding human reproduction.
Fertility has decreased by 50% over the last 50 years, owing not only to low sperm quality but also due to higher endometriosis, poliquistic ovaries syndrome and miscarriages.
Male and female reproductive tract abnormalities have doubled in the last 50 years. Cases of intersex or ambiguous genitalia are appearing more and more, where we just do not know if it is a boy or a girl.
And skewed male/female sex ratio changes in hormonal levels make men with more feminine bodies as women with more masculine traits.
Also Obesity, diabetes and heart problems are increasing every year.
One in every 5 children in USA is obese and 1/10 adult is obese.
Diabetes increased more than 5% per year in some countries!
And we used to classify diabetes type2 as a “Adult onset disease”, and now we can see it at the age of 5!
And heart attack is the most frequent cause of death in the civilised world, which means in countries where there are more EDCs.
Early puberty is another problem. The first menses that were on our grandma days at 16th, are not infrequently now at 8-9 ! We are forgetting what is “normal”. And early puberty is linked to some serious problems like psychological issues, depression, short stature and more breast cancer.
And also because reduced immune function, cancer is getting everyday a problem that is concerning us more and more. Breast, prostate, thyroid and pancreatic cancers are between the most frequents in these “civilized” populations.
Testicular cancer since 1943 has increased four-fold, and is the most frequent tumour among young adults. And for this we know that environmental problems are a risk.
We know that a risk for testicular cancer is: undescended testis, small penises and reduced anogenital distance. And we can cause all of this in laboratory animal using phthalates! There is a direct link!
Also breathing problems like asthma are linked to BPA. And we are witnessing many more cognitive, behavioural and other brain development problems. Attention Deficit Hiperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a “illness” that I haven’t studied when in University! Is a “new” illness! Children are being overmedicated because of some kind of “hyperactivity”!
The greatest risk is during prenatal and early postnatal development when organs and neural systems are forming.
We could say that new-borns are one of the most polluted generations in the world! They deposit hundreds/thousands of chemicals! Although a dose of disrupting chemicals may do not significantly affect the adult mother, the same dose may do a substantial damage to a developing fetus.
Studies on samples of umbilical cord blood found BPA and Phthalates.
Chemicals are associated with liver disease, infertility, abnormal fetal chromosomes.
And 9 out of 10 Americans have BPA in their blood! And 99% of pregnant women were found to have PFC (Perfluorinated chemicals used in non-stick-cookware)) and PBDE (Polibrominated difenyleters, used in fire retardants) in their blood!
We must not overlook the threat plastics pose to humanity! Some experts go further and say that in less than 200 years humankind can be extinct! (To be continued)
WHAT CAN WE DO? WHERE DO ENDOCRINE DIRSRUPTING CHEMICALS (EDC) COME FROM?
They can come from anywhere! From the food we eat, the water we drink, the air we breathe, through the skin, from mother to foetus through the placenta…
Products that we use on a daily basis can contain EDCs: plastics, furniture, coatings, paper, cups and cans (they have a lining with a plastic)
I was very surprised to find out that the even tea bags and payment receipts contain plastics! The thermal paper receipts commonly used at grocery stores and restaurants has the paper commonly coated with BPA containing clay for printing purposes.
Food processing, packaging, storage, shipping and cooking are usually not without chemicals. These chemicals will have an impact in receptors, secretion, transport and metabolism of the hormones.
Eating and drinking from cans increase BPA exposure by up to 1600%.
There are certainly exposures that we cannot control through individual decision-making.
Even water…the source of life, can be a toxic cocktail if bottled and exposed to heat. A single glass of tap water may contain over 2500 different chemical contaminants. The source of life is affecting us like a silent epidemia.
A good water filter can reduce exposure to lead in drinking water. Lead is very toxic for the brain, and can lead to loss of IQ and brain damage.
When you develop a brain, that is the brain that you will have for the rest of your life, you get only one chance to develop your brain, so pregnant women must be twice as careful!
We are all responsible and thus action must be taken.
- Check labels and avoid products that contain know EDCs.
- Eat organic, unprocessed food.
- Make an effort to protect your family and your children from risk products (eg plastic toys).
- Be extra mindful during pregnancy
- Limit your plastic waste products to ensure that toxins are not released.
- Reduce plastic in our life.
Politicians are not really reactive or even talkative about the subject.
Laws that require chemicals to be tested before they go on the market would help reduce our exposure.
We need a political reaction otherwise this will be not possible. It is impossible to know if there are phthalates on your flip-flops, PBDE in the remote control of your TV, BPA in the dental products your dentist uses.
We need political regulatory action. Some experts believe that in 200 years time human kind can be extinguished! And if you think that 200 years is too far…think that will be the grand children of our sons that will be at risk. We must act now! And it is already late.