Hormones, endocrine glands and endocrine disruptors
Endocrine disruptors (or hormonal disruptors) are synthetic (and sometimes natural) substances which, during repeated exposure, modify the homeostasis of the body (its balance) and in particular the hormonal balance. This is why they are also calledxeno-hormones “. They mimic, block or modify the action of hormones by interfering with their metabolism. These are “hormonal decoys”. They are part of the pollutants and toxins in our environment, capable of altering our health.
The harmful effects of endocrine disruptors affect exposed people but also their offspring, as pointed out by the IPCS (the International Program on Chemical Substances of the United Nations).
Hormones, their overproduction or underproduction, are responsible for our health, our well-being, our mood but also for aging, degenerative diseases, overweight, stress, anxiety, addictions,….
These hormones are produced by so-called endocrine glands, that is to say, which release their products into the blood. It is these glands that are the target of endocrine disruptors.
To act, hormones attach themselves to a “receptor”, like a key attaches to a lock to open a door. When an endocrine disrupting chemical attaches itself to this same receptor, the key goes into the lock, but the door does not open, which will disturb the physiology, by suppressing the biological response concerned.
These hormone receptors are well known in the scientific world. They are usually found on the surface of the cell nucleus.
Most of the time these endocrine disruptors come from chemical substances manufactured by man, which induce more particularly alterations of the reproductive function and of the thyroid and adrenal functions.
These endocrine disruptors can act in two different ways:
– by “imitation” by binding to receptors instead of real hormones
– by hormonal “blocking” by preventing natural hormones from binding to receptors.
Where are these endocrine disruptors found?
They are first found in man-made synthetic products. Of the more than ten million chemicals that have been created, approximately one hundred thousand are used for commercial purposes. Some are now banned, others still in use.
Analysis of the contents of household vacuum cleaner bags shows that household dust contains substances such as phthalates, organo-tin compounds, chlorinated paraffins which enter into the composition of PVC, rubber, paints and plastics, showing that they are ubiquitous in our homes. Some are proven troublemakers, others suspected troublemakers. The list is long…
The main hormonal disruptors
Pesticides, antiseptics and preservatives
- From pesticides (insecticides, herbicides, fungicides): organochlorines (prohibited in agriculture but not elsewhere), organophosphates, pyrethroids. Chlordecone, for example, causes neurological damage and oligospermia; this pesticide is still present in the soils of Guadeloupe despite its ban. DDE, a metabolite of DDT, impairs calcium and prostaglandin metabolism. Although banned in 1971, DDT and its metabolites are still found in the environment.
- From antibacterial, anti-tartar, (triclosan) still present in certain detergents, wipes, deodorants, soaps, toothpastes, shaving cream. It can disrupt the functioning of the thyroid. They also have estrogenic or androgenic activity.
- The parabens (or methyl or butyl para-amino benzoates…): these are preservatives used in cosmetics. They disrupt the endocrine system by behaving in the body like estrogen. Additionally, butyl paraben is known to be greatly linked to sperm DNA alterations in men experiencing infertility issues.
- the bisphenol A : component of food plastics (bottles, coating cans and preserves, dental cements). Bisphenol A was initially used in the laboratory as a substitute for estrogen, but when it was discovered that it could help produce rigid, transparent plastics, its commercial manufacture exploded. Annual production is estimated today at more than three million tonnes. The major concerns associated with bisphenol A relate to its imitation of the action of estrogen which leads to alterations in the male reproductive organs, induces precocious puberty and may be linked to the development of obesity. Bisphenol S or F alternatives do not solve these problems.
- The phthalates : plastic softeners, packaging used in the kitchen, toys, cosmetic and care products (fragrances, deodorants), drug coatings, soaps, etc. Phthalates are a family of chemical compounds mainly intended for industrial uses. Good vehicles of fragrances, they are also responsible for the smells of perfumes. They are also detected in urine, breast milk, amniotic fluid and the umbilical cord. Phthalates are strongly suspected of having developmental toxic effects as well as an impact on testicular cancer, certain malformations of the male reproductive tract, reduced fertility and fetal death. In women, on the contrary, phthalates stimulate sexual development leading to earlier puberty.
Products added to household materials
- From polychlorinated biphenyls or PCBs, used as lubricants, adhesives, even in some transformers. They have long been used in refrigerators, transformers and electrical capacitors. They are still present in the environment despite their ban and responsible for banning fishing in several rivers because of their persistence.
- From perfluorinated compounds or PFCs found in non-stick coatings such as Teflon and in some waterproof clothing, stain-resistant fabrics and carpets, oil, some waxes, insecticides.
- From polybrominated compounds (or PBDEs) which are “flame retardants”, flame retardants, which are found in many pieces of furniture to delay the spread of a fire (bedding, sofa, car interior, computers, etc.), in electrical appliances such as telephone boxes , hair dryers and televisions, computers, lighting systems, furniture upholstery and carpets.
- From alkylphenolssurfactants found in certain clothing, pesticide formulation adjuvants and other agricultural products, water-based paints, tires, adhesives, carbon paper and high performance rubbers as well as in certain body and hair cleansers, shaving and styling products.
- Organotin compounds (which contain tin) such as TBT or tributyl tin, used as biocides or formerly as anti-dirt, anti-mould paints), paper, leather, textiles, and which are still measured in the environment despite their partial ban.
- Mercuryin addition to being neurotoxic and genotoxic, is also a hormonal disruptor (in its methylated form).
- Cadmium has estrogenic effects at very low doses. Its role has been identified in breast cancer.
- The lead: In addition to lead poisoning, lead is a recognized endocrine disruptor causing fertility disorders, miscarriages, alteration of sperm; it has an estrogenic action.
- Dioxins, furans, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) from combustion or incineration of organic materials.
- The Glycol ethers, phenoxyethanol, are preservatives. An assessment by the ANSM (National Agency for the Safety of Medicines) showed that there were risks for reproduction. A recommendation has been sent to the European Commission with a view to banning this substance in products intended for children under 3 years old (in particular in baby wipes). According to some studies, more than 60% of conventional cosmetics contain potential endocrine disruptors such as triclosan, and certain parabens. EDTA, present in cosmetics and the food industry as a preservative, is a “chelator” which binds heavy metals and promotes their bioavailability.
- certain medications (synthetic hormones). The case of diethylstilbestrol or DES, a drug designed in the 1940s to prevent spontaneous abortions, has caused congenital malformations and cancers. It was banned in the 1970s. Endocrine disruptors are still used as hormone regulators (synthetic hormones). Unfortunately, these drugs are found in drinking water, as purification stations do not eliminate them. Estradiol (an oral contraceptive) is a very potent disruptor.
It is impossible to list them all because in total, 600 artificial substances, likely to disrupt the endocrine system, have been included in the priority list of the European Union. Many of these are known as persistent organic pollutants (POPs). It is likely that many other substances are not yet taken into account, for lack of sufficient data.
some plants also have an action on the hormonal field such as soy, sage, yam, etc. We prefer not to classify them here as hormonal disruptors and talk about them in other articles where it is possible to use them to precisely compensate for the drops age-related hormones.
And the tobacco?
Apart from the heavy metals and hydrocarbons found in cigarettes, nicotine is known to mimic the action of hormones in addition to being neurotoxic. Additionally, nicotine stimulates the release of “endorphins” whose effect is very short, which obliges the smoker to “recharge” at regular intervals and therefore to expose themselves more and more.
Excess alcohol stimulates hormone receptors and is likely to be involved in certain hormone-dependent cancers. Alcohol also reduces the effect of leptin, the “satiety” hormone. This hormone is stored in fats and alcohol slows their burning. Added to this are the direct deleterious effects (cancer, cirrhosis, hypertension and cardiovascular diseases).
What about recommendations?
Endocrine disruptors are ubiquitous in everyday life. Whether they enter our body by ingestion, contact or inhalation, they act in infinitesimal doses.
They are often difficult to be neutralized by our body because our detoxification systems are not used to eliminating these synthetic products for the most part.
The different detoxifying techniques that act in synergy can be used against hormone disrupting substances.
Without falling into paranoia, the best solution is therefore to avoid exposing ourselves to these substances as much as possible. A few “reflexes” of everyday life can help us live longer and limit the undesirable effects on our hormonal terrain, which is fragile over the years.
To access these recommendations, we urge the reader to read the following article: Know how to avoid hormonal disruptors»
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