What the heck is Endocrine Disruption????

While this term is as common to me as the word “band-aid” is in most homes, I realize that not everyone has ever heard of this term.   So, allow me to explain.

From my book “Endocrine Disrupted” – Chapter Four.

In the headwaters of the Potomac River, scientists have discovered that male small-mouthed bass were producing eggs. The West Virginia Division of Natural Resources asked the US Geological Survey to examine the fish near the town or Moorfield, about three hours from Washington D.C. after learning about fish die-offs in the South Potomac in 2002.  Anglers reported fish with lesions. It was determined by the USGS these fish were exposed to bacteria and other contaminants.

Another test was conducted a year later, and it was revealed that male fish had testicular and ovarian tissue. Some 42 percent of male small-mouthed bass surveyed showed signs of inter-sex development.   A second sampling produced an even higher rate – 79 percent showed sexual abnormalities, according to Leestown Science Center in Kearneysville, WV.

The cause of intersex development in fish has been debated, but under suspicion are emerging contaminants known as endocrine disruptors, or ED’s.   EDs work like biological disinformation campaigns, potential affecting any system in the body that is controlled by hormones.  Sometimes mimicking natural hormones like estrogen, ED’s can alter other hormone concentrations interfering with the normal cell-signaling process by turning on, shutting off, or disrupting the signals that hormones carry.

EDs work like biological disinformation campaigns, potential affecting any system in the body that is controlled by hormones. 

Sexual abnormalities are not confined to West Virginia waters.  David O. Norris, a professor in the University of Colorado’s Department of Integrative Physiology, has specialized in environmental endocrinology for over 35 years.  He was involve in leading an ongoing research project which looked into hormone production in the Denver waters.  He studied fish that were located below and above sewage treatment plants where effluents are added to the waters, and found reproductive abnormalities in fish downstream of the treatment plants.  His impression was that the male fish were being feminized because of the contaminants in the water, mostly estrogenic. Some of the chemicals he found in the waters were estrogenic compounds from human urine originating from birth control pills. He also found large concentrations of chemicals from household detergents and personal care products.

Experts on endocrine disrupters have become increasingly concerned over the presence of contaminants in drinking water.  Robert W. Masters of the National Ground Waters Association, NGWA (Pharmaceuticals and Endocrine Disruptors in Rivers and on Tap, 2011) raised concerns about the public water system after it had tested positive for drugs. He wrote in his article that tap water in Wheeling, W.V. and the Ohio River tested positive for antibiotics, according to USA TODAY, November 7, 2000.

Current drinking water standards do not require testing for any of over 7,000 pharmaceutical compounds being prescribed.

The endocrine system excretes hormones in an organism that govern many functions, including sexual and reproductive characteristics. Agricultural, industrial, and household products often contain compounds that mimic estrogen when ingested.  ED’s of this type may contribute to the high percentage of male small-mouthed bass found in the Potomac that exhibit female characteristics.

ED’s are found in many of the everyday products we use, such as household cleaning products, plastic bottles food can liners, and cosmetics and pesticides.  These hormones and hormone-like substances are typically highly soluble in water and are easily transported in the blood. They are of particular concern because they can alter the critical hormonal balances required for proper health and development. The glands that make up the adrenal glands, pancreas, ovaries, testes, pineal gland, thymus, all of which are potentially affected by endocrine disruptors.

If these chemicals are introduces into the water systems from human waste and food, then it is possible that human tissues might also contain detectable levels of contaminants.  We may be experiencing subtle population changes from chemical exposure that are particularly impactful during fetal and newborn developments.  Other known possible effects on humans caused by chemical contaminants in tissues of the endocrine system include cancer particularly breast and testicular cancer, infertility, disorders of sex development and asthma and other immune related syndromes such as autism, ADHD, learning and behavioral disorders, diabetes, thyroid disorders, poor semen quality, testes cancer undescended tests and hypospadias,  a condition in which the opening of the urethra is on the underside of the penis.

Each week, I will have a theme to write about.  This week it is Endocrine Disruption.  The remainder of the week I will write about what is in your cleaning supplies, foods, beauty products and the herbs and foods and lifestyle that is “clean” – free of the dangerous chemicals that can be making you sick.

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To your good health,
Darlene Rose