Man-Made chemicals a threat to global health

By Efrosini Costa

Man-Made chemicals a threat to global health
Chemicals found in everyday items could be responsible for a sharp rise in hormone-related disorders and diseases affecting animals and humans, the World Health Organisation has warned.

“Man-made chemicals in everyday products are likely to be at least the partial cause of a global surge in birth deformities, hormonal cancers and psychiatric diseases,” a United Nations research team reported this week.

A panel of scientists from 10 nations in North America, Europe, Africa and Asia found that endocrine-related diseases (EDCS) and disorders are on the rise, and that synthetic chemicals could be to blame.

“It is clear that some of these chemical pollutants can affect the endocrinal (hormonal) system and….may also interfere with the development processes of humans and wildlife species,” the report argued.

The study’s findings cited “emerging evidence for adverse reproductive outcomes” and “mounting evidence” for effects on thyroids, brains and metabolism as potential dangers related to the synthetic chemicals.

Low sperm count, diabetes, asthma, obesity, degenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and dementia, birth deformities, female infertility, hormonal cancers, psychiatric diseases and child cancers, are just a few of the diseases believed to be caused by these hormone-altering chemicals.

The same chemical ingredients are also being blamed for the eradication of certain wildlife species, with scientists citing an increase in endocrine-related diseases in populations of deer, sea lions and sea otters.

The dangerous chemicals include common compounds – such as Phthalates, a common plastic softener found in toys, perfumes, pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, and deodorants, as well as Bisphenol A – or BPA – a plastics hardener, common in food and beverage containers, babies’ bottles, and food can coatings.

With global rates of endocrine-related cancers increasing dramatically in the last few decades, earlier onset of aggressive cancers in children, as well as unfavourably high rates of low semen quality and genital malformation in young men over such a short amount of time, UN health experts believe that genetic causes can’t be at fault.

But, even laboratory studies have backed the suspicions that EDCs are to blame.

The UN has called for more research to determine which of the EDCs are the largest culprits, and what other environmental factors could be at play.

“Close to 800 chemicals are known or suspected to be capable of interfering with hormone receptors, hormone synthesis or hormone conversion,” the panel said.

“However, only a small fraction of these chemicals have been investigated in tests capable of identifying overt endocrine effects in intact organisms,” they added.

Worldwide, they believe there has been a failure to adequately address the underlying environmental causes of trends in endocrine diseases and disorders, and that the disease-related risk due to EDCs has been severely underestimated.



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