A newly released report, published in the The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology has revealed that exposure to hormone-disrupting chemicals is attributed to $340 billion in health costs each year in the United States.
These endocrine-disrupting chemicals, or EDCs for short, are found in many everyday items that are used in homes across the country. Plastic food containers, detergents, flame retardants, cosmetics and even toys for children can be host to these damaging substances.
Some of the problems related to exposure to EDCs include neurological damage and behavioral problems such as attention deficit/hyperactivty disorder (ADHD), autism and loss of IQ. The report suggests that these issues make up about 80 percent of the problems caused by EDC exposure.
Of course, these are not the only health issues that are caused by EDCs. These chemicals, which are basically toxins, have also been attributed to obesity, diabetes, cancer, male infertility, and endometriosis – a painful condition characterized by abnormal tissue growth outside of the uterus.
The economic impact of the harm caused by EDCs is also quite important. These costs add up to about two percent of the United States’ gross domestic product (GDP) each year – a huge financial wound.
The study’s lead investigator Leonardo Trasande, an associate professor at NYU Langone Medical Center in New York City, said, “Our research adds to the growing evidence on the tremendous economic as well as human health costs of endocrine-disrupting chemicals.” Trasande also commented that this issue has the potential to become a much more prominent health and economic problem if no policy action is taken.
Endocrine tissue is essential to many of the body’s functions. It produces many of the body’s hormones that regulate energy levels, reproduction, growth and development. The endocrine system also modulates our response to stress and injury; like every other part of the body, it’s clearly important.
What EDCs do is mimic natural hormones produced by the body, such as estrogen and androgen, and then lock onto the receptors for those hormones within cells. This prevents the body’s own hormones from binding to reception sites, and in turn, creates a number of different potential health problems.
Even the Environmental Protection Agency has recently come forward to admit that recent research has been raising a few red flags about environmental contaminants, such as their potential to “disrupt the endocrine system leading to adverse-health consequences.”
Some of the most dangerous chemicals prevailing in the US are PBDEs, which are found in flame retardants. This class of man-made substances is suspected of being one of the largest culprits behind human hormone interference. Flame retardants and pesticides have both been associated with a loss in IQ points and are known to affect developing brains.
Bisphenol A, or BPA, which is found in plastic bottles, can linings and other products, has been subject to a lot of public scrutiny – and for good reason. Countless studies have linked it to a myriad of health problems, including changes in metabolism and disruption of the reproductive and nervous systems.
Phthalates are another ingredient of concern; these are often seen in plastics and other consumer goods, like cosmetics. They make plastic more flexible and can also be used as suspension or stabilizing agent in solutions (like your lip gloss). These are also attributed to a number of health problems, including reproductive issues. Together, BPA and phthalates have racked up about $50 billion in health damages. Estimates suggest that the amount of these chemicals circulating in the blood of an average American would be among the top 5 percent in Europeans.
These chemicals are not safe, and should be avoided – even if our government won’t do anything about them.