Hormone-disrupting chemicals found in domestic and industrial products which have not been properly tested may result in significant health problems.

The finding was reported by the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) and WHO (World Health Organization).

Their research suggests that more studies are needed to completely understand the link between EDCs (endocrine disrupting chemicals) and certain illnesses and disorders.

Possible risks for disease could be lowered, with considerable savings to public health, with more extensive evaluations and improved testing techniques, according to the authors.

The well-being of people relies on a proper working endocrine system to control the release of specific hormones that are critical for growth and development, sleep, mood, and metabolism.

The functions of this hormonal system may be changed by endocrine disruptors, raising the probability of negative health outcomes.

Although some EDCs occur by nature, synthetic types can be found in:

  • personal care products
  • electronics
  • pesticides
  • cosmetics

They can also be added ingredients or contaminants in food, the researchers added.

The new research is the most inclusive report on ECDs as of yet, the researchers said. It emphasizes links between EDC exposure and health issues, such as the potential for these chemicals to lead to:

  • non-descended testes in young males
  • prostate cancer in men
  • breast cancer in women
  • thryoid cancer
  • developmental effects on the nervous system in children
  • attention deficit /hyperactivity in kids

EDCs can come into the environment through:

  • industrial and urban discharges
  • the burning and release of waste
  • agricultural run-off

People may be exposed to these chemicals through:

  • dust and water
  • the ingestion of food
  • skin contact
  • inhalation of gases and particles in the air

“Chemical products are increasingly part of modern life and support many national economies, but the unsound management of chemicals challenges the achievement of key development goals, and sustainable development for all,” revealed UN Under Secretary-General and UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner.

“Investing in new testing methods and research can enhance understanding of the costs of exposure to EDCs, and assist in reducing risks, maximizing benefits and spotlighting more intelligent options and alternatives that reflect a transition to a green economy,” Mr Steiner pointed out.

The experts believe that there may be other environmental and non-genetic factors, including age and nutrition, responsible for the higher rates of disease and disorders, other than chemical exposure.

However, scientists do not have enough knowledge to identify precise causes and effects.

Dr Maria Neira, WHO’s Director for Public Health and Environment, explained:

“We urgently need more research to obtain a fuller picture of the health and environment impacts of endocrine disruptors. The latest science shows that communities across the globe are being exposed to EDCs, and their associated risks. WHO will work with partners to establish research priorities to investigate links to EDCs and human health impacts in order to mitigate the risks. We all have a responsibility to protect future generations.”

The report wonders about the damage to wildlife by EDCs. Exposure to these chemicals in Alaska may lead to infertility, antler malformation in some deer populations, and reproductive defects.

The declining populations of species of sea lions and otters might also be partly caused by their exposure to various mixtures of PCBs, the insecticide DDT, other persistent organic pollutants, and metals including mercury.

Banning and/or limiting EDCs has often resulted in the recovery of wildlife populations and better overall public health..

In order to lower possible risk of illness, improve global awareness of these chemicals, and reduced associated costs, the authors have made a few suggestions:

  • Testing: Recognized ECD’s are only the beginning. More comprehensive testing is needed to identify other potential endocrine disruptors, their origins, and ways of exposure.
  • Research: More proof is crucial to determine the impact of mixtures of EDCs on people and wildlife (mainly from industrial by-products) to which they are more and more exposed.
  • Reporting: Scientists are not aware of several sources of EDCs due to inadequate reporting and missing facts on chemicals in products, goods, and materials.
  • Collaboration: Researchers and countries should work together and share their data in order to fill in any missing details, mainly in developing nations and emerging economies.

Professor Åke Bergman of Stockholm University and Chief Editor of the report, concluded:

“Research has made great strides in the last ten years showing endocrine disruption to be far more extensive and complicated than realized a decade ago. As science continues to advance, it is time for both management of endocrine disrupting chemicals and further research on exposure and effects of these chemicals in wildlife and humans.”

Written by Sarah Glynn