What is an endocrine disruptor?
Endocrine disrupters (EP) are synthetic or natural chemicals that interact and affect the proper functioning of our hormonal system.
The health effects of endocrine disrupters are still poorly understood due to recent awareness, researchers began to address the subject in the 1950s, and the difficulty encountered in studying them.
The health problems they cause are of such magnitude that they concern not only scientists but also politicians.
What is the endocrine system?
Our body contains a communication network and these communications are essential to ensure its proper functioning. The messages in the body are either electrical (nervous system) or chemical (endocrine system).
The endocrine system consists of organs that secrete hormones through the hormonal glands: Hypothalamus, pituitary gland, adrenaline, thyroid, ovary or testes, parathyroid, thymus, pancreas.
These glands produce chemicals, hormones, which are transported by the blood and distributed in the body to the destination organs.
They trigger functions in our body such as growth, metabolism, sleep, stress, sexual development, brain development, reproduction.....
an endocrine disruptor is an exogenous substance or mixture that alters endocrine system functions and, therefore, has a deleterious effect on the health of an individual, his descendants or sub-populations.
The effects of endocrine disrupters?
According to the World Health Organization (WHO):
Endocrine disrupters will directly or indirectly interfere with the proper functioning of the body through a toxic effect that causes physiological changes affecting the synthesis, degradation, transport or action of hormones.
Since hormones are present in the body in trace amounts, even very low exposure to endocrine disrupters can affect the body.
Preventing exposure to these substances is essential, especially for pregnant women and young children.
Endocrine disrupters interfere with our hormones in many ways and their mechanisms of action are multiple and complex.
In particular, they can modify the production of hormones, or prevent them from acting (blocking specific sites on cells, competition with natural hormones, hormone mimicry...).
What are the illnesses associated with endocrine disrupters?
The potential consequences for our bodies are therefore numerous.
Endocrine disrupters are suspected to be linked to declining human fertility, the development of hormone-dependent cancers (breast, ovary, thyroid, testicles...) and to obesity and diabetes.
In the 1970s, it was shown that distilbene, a synthetic estrogen used to reduce the risk of miscarriage, caused birth defects and an increase in the number of gynaecological cancers in children whose mothers had received this treatment. Since then, it has been known that its health effects have been spread over several generations.
Origins of endocrine disrupters?
There are many sources of exposure to endocrine disrupters: in manufactured products, in our food, in our water, in the air we breathe and especially in indoor air.
For the vast majority, they come from the agrochemical industry: pesticides, plastics, pharmaceuticals, flame retardants...
The best known are phthalates and bisphenols used as plasticisers, parabens as preservatives, organochlorines, flame retardant organobromines and organophosphates in flame retardants, pesticides in the form of insecticides, fungicides and herbicides.
The work of the Indoor Air Quality Observatory (IAQO) shows that we are exposed to multiple endocrine disrupters on a daily basis. This observation raises the question of the toxicity of mixtures and the "cocktail effect".
Indeed, a mixture of several chemical substances may have a toxicity greater than the sum of the individual toxicities of each of these substances.
How to detect endocrine disrupters?
Endocrine disrupters are found inside buildings and since we spend about 80% of our time there, it is essential to know the level of contamination in indoor air.
In our indoor environment, flame retardants are found in furniture, furniture fabrics and foams, or electronic devices.
Plastic coatings generally contain phthalates or bisphenol A.
Cosmetics and household products also contain many endocrine disrupters such as triclosan.
Laboratory tests of domestic pesticides and plasticisers will allow you to know precisely if you are exposed and to what levels.
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