This is a topic I am extremely passionate about. I knew that when I first started reading about hormone disruptors 2.5 years ago this was going to be a topic that had an enormous impact on our health. This is why every time I discuss how ingredients in our personal care and cleaning products impact our health, hormone disruption is at the top of my list. Hormone, or endocrine, disruptors are chemicals that have the potential to interfere with the body’s endocrine system. A recent article in the New York Times discusses how these common hormone disruptors are not only effecting women, but they are having a large impact on men’s semen. “About 90 percent in a typical young man — are misshapen, sometimes with two heads or two tails.”
Andrea Gore, a professor of pharmacology at the University of Texas at Austin and the editor of the journal Endocrinology, states “Semen quality and fertility in men have decreased. Not everyone who wants to reproduce will be able to. And the costs of male disorders to quality of life, and the economic burden to society, are inestimable.”
The endocrine system regulates mood, growth and development, tissue function, metabolism, sexual function and reproductive processes. Some chemicals mimic a natural hormone and thereby fool the body into responding; a false cue like this could result in the body producing more estrogen, which in turn could lead to something like breast cancer. Other disruptors block the effects of a needed hormone, or cause overproduction or underproduction of hormones (for example, an overactive or underactive thyroid).
I often get the statement of, isn’t our bodies designed to handle these types of insults? The answer is no. Tiny amounts of these chemicals can sometimes do more damage than large amounts. It may be counterintuitive, but the body is used to dealing with really small amounts of natural hormones, produced nearly constantly. So when foreign endocrine disruptors from our environment, like our food and our cosmetics, enter our bodies in tiny doses throughout the day, they mimic our normal hormones. Any of these changes may produce serious developmental, reproductive, neurological and immune problems. A wide range of substances can disrupt hormones, including DDT and other pesticides, BPA (found in polycarbonate plastics and the resins that line metal food cans), phthalates (found in “fragrances” in detergents and cosmetics) and parabens (common cosmetic preservatives).
The impact that hormone disruptors have on our health is enormous and sadly we are getting hit from so many areas of our lives. Due to lack of regulation, there are over 80,000 chemicals in the marketplace and only about 10% contain any safety data. We are currently acting as test subjects to see how these chemicals affect us. It is not ok and while the majority of the people I talk to are women, this is not just a women’s issue, but a public health issue. We deserve better and I will not stop until it happens.