Environmental chemicals — found in plastics, cosmetics, pesticides, and other consumer products — have been linked to diabetes and obesity, according to a new scientific report issued ahead of a global ecological conference.
The report, issued today by the Endocrine Society, cites emerging evidence that endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs) contribute to health problems by mimicking, blocking, or interfering with the body's natural hormones — altering the way cells develop and grow.
The report's release comes as society experts are addressing the International Conference on Chemicals Management in Geneva this week. In addition to increasing the risk of developing diabetes and obesity, EDCs have also been linked to infertility, hormone-related cancers, neurological issues, and other disorders, the society notes.
"The evidence is more definitive than ever before — EDCs disrupt hormones in a manner that harms human health," said Andrea C. Gore, professor of pharmacology at the University of Texas at Austin and chair of the task force that developed the statement. "Hundreds of studies are pointing to the same conclusion, whether they are long-term epidemiological studies in human, basic research in animals and cells, or research into groups of people with known occupational exposure to specific chemicals."
EDCs include bisphenol A (BPA) found in food can linings and cash register receipts, phthalates found in plastics and cosmetics, flame retardants, and pesticides. Nearly every person on Earth has been exposed to one or more of these chemicals, and an economic analysis published in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism
this year estimated they add up to hundreds of billions of dollars in healthcare expenses and lost worker productivity.
Unborn children exposed to EDCs are most at risk, with studies linking even tiny levels to obesity and Type 2 diabetes later in life.
"It is clear we need to take action to minimize further exposure," Gore said. "With more chemicals being introduced into the marketplace all the time, better safety testing is needed to identify new EDCs and ensure they are kept out of household goods."
To combat EDC exposure, the society calls for:
- Additional research into cause-and-effect relationships between EDCs and health conditions.
- Regulation to ensure that chemicals are tested for endocrine activity, including at low doses, prior to being permitted for use.
- "Green chemists" to create products that test for and eliminate potential EDCs.
- Education for the public and policymakers on ways to keep EDCs out of food, water and the air, as well as ways to protect unborn children from exposure.
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