Dr Dingle's Blog / EDC's
Since the 1980's, there has been a growing amount of research toward the potential interaction between these environmental estrogens and wild animals, with a number of reports detailing the emergence of 'feminised wildlife’ around the world, and a range of adverse effects in humans including decreased sperm count, increased cases of testicular cancer and testicular abnormalities, increased breast cancer in men and women and premature or precocious puberty. Other adverse health outcomes linked with EDC’s include headache, migraine, depression, gastrointestinal disturbances, insomnia, changes in breast tissue and in vaginal bleeding. More chronic symptoms affect the cardiovascular system, the skin (itching, rash, abnormal pigmentation), the gallbladder, and tumours particularly of the breast but also uterus, cervix, vagina and liver. While other studies have shown increases in the organ weight of estrogen-sensitive tissues such as the uterus, and calcium and bone metabolism are all examples of the estrogenic effects. Even how we age and age at menopause can be affected by these chemicals. In support of this at least one professional and very conservative group, the Endocrine Society, has concluded that sufficient evidence now exists linking endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) to adverse human reproductive effects, including possible epigenetic and trans-generational effects.
Unfortunately, our babies are being born pre-polluted with chemicals detectable in their blood, in the placenta and in amniotic fluid because of exposure to these chemicals during pregnancy and throughout the mother’s life. The placental barrier has been shown to allow these chemicals to cross, as many of them have been measured in human fetal cord blood, fetal serum, human amniotic fluid and even newborn stools (meconium). Exposure to these chemicals before birth poses a serious health risks to developing fetus, infants and young children as shown by the increasing adverse effects including negative birth outcomes, childhood obesity and increasing intellectual disabilities. It is believed that current levels of environmental estrogen exposure results in lower birth weights, smaller head circumferences, poorer neuromuscular maturity and visual recognition, delays in psychomotor development, short term memory problems, and growth retardation in newborn babies. Fetal exposure to these environmental estrogens are suspected of disrupting thyroid functioning, sexual differentiation of the brain in foetal development and cognitive motor function and cause anxious behaviour. They are also able to bind to neurotransmitters such as epinephrine, neuroepinophrine and dopamine enabling estrogens to influence the body's central nervous system (CNS). Environmental estrogens have also been shown to effect the body’s immune system.
Studies have found strong links with exposure to excessive levels of estrogen in males with penis abnormalities, lower libido, congenital anomalies, failure of the testes to descend and testicular cancer, reduced penis size and increased embryo mortality.
What is most concerning regarding control of these chemicals is that there are no indications given or regulations set regarding the minimal age at which they should be used or exposed to them. Increasingly, pregnant mothers, infants, pre-pubescent and pubescent children are being exposed to a large number of products containing these chemicals, with no research to show that exposure is safe during these critical periods of development.
Equally strong is the evidence that these same chemicals can cause some of the most common cancers: prostate and testicular cancer in men and breast cancer in women. One of the most troubling is their association with breast cancer. Breast cancer is the major cancer affecting women in the Western world and one of the most disturbing and well documented current trends is the alarming increase in breast cancer incidence over the past few decades. Fifty years ago the risk rate was one woman in 20; today it is one in 8 and approximately two-thirds of breast tumors are estrogen receptive, and environmental estrogens like parabens, phthalates and BPA are known to bind to estrogen receptors. Estrogen-dependent cancers, such as breast cancer, are known to be highly responsive to estrogens for growth. Even more disturbing is the increase in numbers of young girls developing breast cancer.
In 2015 The EU banned the use of 4 phthalates (butylbenzyl phthalate (BBP), di(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate (DEHP), dibutyl phthalate (DBP), and diisobutyl phthalate (DIBP)) but companies could seek—and have obtained—continued-use authorizations if there are no safer alternatives. However, very recently on June 20 2017, the EU went further and voted to remove the chemicals from consumer products that contain the phthalates at levels greater than 0.1% by weight by getting rid of any exemptions.
Phthalates are industrial chemicals often used to soften plastics in toys, household items such as food containers, and medical devices as well as construction materials, floorings, paints, lubricating oils, wood finishes, detergents, industrial plastics, pharmaceuticals, and as a plasticizer for polyvinyl chloride products. Phthalates have been increasingly added to cosmetic products such as perfumes, lotions, hairsprays, moisturisers, nail polish, deodorants, and ingredients in makeup, shampoos and soaps. They are used primarily at concentrations of less than 10% as plasticizers in products such as nail polishes (to reduce cracking by making polished nails less brittle) and hairsprays (to help avoid stiffness by allowing them to form a flexible film on the hair) and as solvents and perfume fixatives in various other products. Phthalates produce oily textures in lotions and they contribute to making skin feel soft and helping lotions penetrate deeper into the skin.
Some phthalates are included in personal care products because of their ability to hold colour, denature alcohol, and fix fragrance. Phthalates are also used as a fragrance base and as components of fragrances to make scents last longer. If a product’s label lists “fragrance” or “parfum,” it’s possible, even probable, that it contains phthalates (and parabens), as companies are not required to disclose fragrance components. Fragrance has emerged as the strongest predictor among PCPs of urinary concentrations of certain phthalate metabolites. In a 2012 study, the highest concentration of one particular phthalate was found in fragrance/perfume and car air freshener. Other products with high concentrations include car interior cleaner, tub/tile cleaner, bar soap, shaving cream, and lipstick. Interestingly, three different phthalates were found in so-called “alternative” products. These compounds may have been introduced as substitutes for the better-known anti-androgenic (testosterone) phthalates, even though they are also endocrine-disrupting chemicals. An “alternative” shaving cream contained five different phthalates, illustrating the potential for simultaneous exposures to multiple phthalates, which act cumulatively and may act synergistically. What is worrying is that none of the products that were tested had “phthalate” on the label—including personal care products, which by law are required to list phthalates unless they are part of a secret fragrance ingredient. However, the conventional nail polish sample with measurable phthalate contained a product labelled “phthalic anhydride copolymer” which is just another phthalate. Phthalates are seldom listed on product labels in most countries because current regulations do not require listing individual fragrance components. It is obvious now that products marketed as “natural” may also contain phthalates, even though the consumer believes them to be “chemical-free.”
New research suggests that a 25% reduction in exposure to just 4 chemicals commonly found in the home would reduce diabetes cases by around 13% which could save billions of dollars in annual health costs.
Increasing evidence suggests that synthetic chemicals commonly found in the environment contribute to metabolic disorders, especially obesity and diabetes. Previous publications have associated prevalent diabetes with polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), persistent chlorinated pesticides, phthalates and perfluoroalkyl substances (PFASs). Separate studies found similar connections between diabetes and exposure to DDT, PCBs and perfluoroalkyl.
In this study of 1,016 participants they found significant connections between the four chemicals investigated and a number of different diseases and found reduced exposure to all four chemicals would lead to a likely reduction 13% in diabetes cases. This study confirms substantial contribution, especially of mixtures of endocrine-disrupting chemicals, to adult type 2 diabetes, and large annual costs of medical care. A previous reported a significant positive relationship between phthalates in the blood and lowered insulin secretion, increased insulin resistance or both.
While this study supports efforts to reduce chemical exposures to reduce the burden and costs of diabetes there are many other disease states including cardiovascular disease and cancer that would also likely be reduced.
Estrogens are a group of naturally occurring hormones present in both male testes and female ovaries, with females producing a considerably higher amount. They are particularly influential during puberty, menstruation and pregnancy; however they also assist in regulating the growth of bones, skin, liver and organs of the cardiovascular system. Estrogens, like all hormones, act as chemical signals and are important in helping cells in various organs to sense and respond to changing physiological conditions; therefore the right balance of hormones is critical in order to carry out the functions required of a healthy, strong body. Estrogen binds to a protein, or estrogen receptor, and the estrogen receptor complex can then bind to specific genes and by this, alter the way they are expressed, resulting in a change in cell programming 1.
Environmental estrogens, are now present in everyday products such as polycarbonate plastics, food packaging and cans. However the greatest source for many people is through cosmetics and personal care products and include chemicals such as triclosan, cyclosiloxanes, parabens and phthalates which are often left on the skin to absorb and accumulate 2. Women are disproportionately exposed to many environmental estrogens like paraben and phthalates because they use more personal care products on average than men 3 and teenage girls tend to use even more products than women, averaging 17 different products per day, compared with 12 for women 4.
Since the 1980's, there has been a growing amount of research toward the potential interaction between these environmental estrogens and wild animals, with a number of reports detailing the emergence of 'feminised wildlife’ around the world, and a range of adverse effects in humans including decreased sperm count, increased cases of testicular cancer and testicular abnormalities, increased breast cancer in men and women and premature or precocious puberty. Other adverse health include headache, migraine, depression, gastrointestinal disturbances, insomnia, mastopathia, changes in vaginal bleeding 5. More chronic symptoms affect the cardiovascular system, the skin (itching, rash, abnormal pigmentation), the gallbladder, and tumours, particularly of the breast but also uterus, cervix, vagina and liver 5.
One of the most troubling is their association with breast cancer 6,7,8. Breast cancer is the major cancer affecting women in the Western world 9 and one of the most disturbing and well documented current trends is the alarming increase in breast cancer incidence over the past few decades. Fifty years ago the risk rate was one woman in 20; today it is one in 8 and approximately two-thirds of breast tumors are estrogen receptive, and environmental estrogens like parabens are known to bind to estrogen receptors. Estrogen-dependent cancers, such as breast cancer, are known to be highly responsive to estrogens for growth. Even more disturbing is the increase in numbers of young girls developing breast cancer. Although many factors such as radiation, alcohol, smoking and diet, add to the risk of developing breast cancer, the predominant influencing factor has been identified as the exposure to estrogens throughout an individual's lifetime 9.
The breast is under hormonal control and a fine balance of hormones is what allows the cell to cell communication. Interaction between these cells and the surrounding fluid of the breast tissue is what controls differentiation and growth of the breast 9. If there is a disruption of those hormones, i.e. through the use of synthetic chemicals, the balance of hormonal control is thrown and the cells do not function normally which may lead to breast cancer. In support of this clinical studies show that estrogen has the capacity to drive breast tumours to grow in laboratory studies. Animal experimental studies have also shown the role of estrogen on the growth of breast cancer cells 9. While chemicals which mimic estrogen have been shown to promote and stimulate the proliferation of breast cancer cells 2,10,11, and activate other processes involved in breast cancer 2,11,12. Recent studies have also shown other factors can dramatically increase the the toxicity of Xenoestrogens and studies of individual estrogens may seriously underestimate their growth and spreading effects in breast tissue cells and their potency to promote breast cancer, particularly at lower doses 13.
Although the vast majority of studies on breast cancer are aimed towards women, men can also suffer from the disease, indicating that they have similar risk factors, with one case in a hundred diagnosed breast cancers being a male 14. Although this number is relatively small, the rate of incidence has increased by 25% in 25 years.
Sperm count of the average male in the US or Europe has been found to be declining continuously over the past four decades, dierectly linked with environmental estrogen exposure, and today it is less than 50% of what it was forty years ago15,16. One result of this lower count is the increased rate of male infertility; which is also the single most common cause of infertility. The rate of infertility has quadrupled in the past forty years, from 4% in 1965 to at least 16% today 15.
Other conditions including undescended testes caused by prenatal estrogen exposure to environmental estrogens have also been found in studies on mice and it has been suggested undescended testes increases the rate of testicular cancer 17. The incidence of testicular cancer, namely affecting males between the ages of 20 to 30, has also seen an increase worldwide. Studies have found strong links with exposure to excessive levels of estrogen with hypospadias (abnormal congenital opening of male urethra upon under surface of the penis) 18,19, lower libido 19, congenital anomalies, cryptorchidism and testicular cancer 20,21,22.
Environmental estrogens have also been linked to early puberty in girls and increasing number of girls experiencing precocious puberty in recent years 15. A study in the United States of 17, 000 girls indicated that 7% of white and 27% of black girls exhibited physical signs of puberty by age seven, and for girls aged 10 the percentages increased to 68 and 95 respectively 16. This trend for earlier puberty has been found to be widespread, with similar cases found in the United Kingdom, Canada and New Zealand (Trankina, M. V L., 2001).
Environmental estrogens are also suspected of disrupting thyroid functioning, sexual differentiation of the brain in foetal development and cognitive motor function 23. It is also believed that high levels of environmental estrogen exposure results in lower birth weights, smaller head circumferences, poorer neuromuscular maturity and visual recognition, delays in psychomotor development, short term memory problems, and growth retardation in newborn babies 24.
Prenatal exposure to environmental estrogens also poses a serious health risks to developing fetus and children as evidence of adverse effect on birth outcomes, childhood obesity, and intellectual disability are increasing 25. The placental barrier has been shown to allow these chemicals to cross as many of them have been measured in human fetal cord blood and tissue. More importantly, because organogenesis begins at the time when the fetus is solely dependent on maternal supply, early life exposure to environmental estrogens may lead to adverse short or long term health outcomes due to fetal reprogramming 26.
From testing on animals it has further been proposed that excessive estrogen levels could cause anxious behaviour 27,28, altered fecundency 29, reduced penis size 30 and increased embryo mortality 24. Environmental estrogens are not only capable of binding to estrogen receptors on cell membranes but are also able to bind to neurotransmitters such as epinephrine, neuroepinophrine and dopamine enabling estrogens to influence the body's central nervous system (CNS) 31. Environmental estrogens have also been shown to effect the body’s immune system 30. A large number of studies have also environmental estrogens to contributing to obesity and diabetes, independent of poor diet and physical inactivity; such chemicals including ingredients found in personal care products and cosmetics such as phthalates and phenols 32,33.
More recently studies have found effects of direct exposure to products instead of just individual chemicals. Extensive observational studies have indicated a relationship between certain hair product use and hormonally imbalances including early menache (puberty) 34,35 and uterine fibroids 36 as well as enlargement of breast tissue in boys and men 37.
However, estrogenic (or anti-estrogenic) effects of the personal care products as commercial mixtures have rarely ever been evaluated. In a study of eight commonly used hair and skin products four of the eight personal care products tested (Oil Hair Lotion, Extra-dry Skin Lotion, Intensive Skin Lotion and Petroleum Jelly demonstrated detectable estrogenic activity 38. The estrogenic activity of these products was not predictable by examining their listed ingredients. However, perhaps the most surprising finding about any one product was the estrogenic activity of SP4 (Petroleum Jelly). Petroleum jelly products are also often used on infants as low-cost therapies for common problems such as diaper rash and is manufactured by refinement of the crude petroleum product. While other studies have shown that hair oil use as a child was significantly associated with earlier menarche and hair relaxer use and uterine fibroids among participants in the 36. A third study found an elevated incidence of endometriosis and use of personal care products containing benzophenone-type UV filters 39.
Fortunately, studies have also shown it is relatively easy to reduce exposure by reducing personal care use or using safer products. In one study of around 100 girls they replaced their personal care products with safer alternatives for 3 days. The replacement products were chosen on the basis of whether their ingredient lists included triclosan, benzophenone-3, or parabens. Phthalates are not listed on ingredient lists, but they are often found in scented products. So the researchers avoided products that listed “fragrance” as an ingredient unless they were specifically labeled as phthalate free. More than 90% of the participants had detectible levels of phthalates, parabens, and benzophenone-3 before they started using the replacement products. After using the alternative products for 3 days urinary concentrations of methyl and propyl paraben decreased by 43.9% and 45.4%, respectively, mono-ethyl phthalate decreased by 27.4%, and triclosan decreased by 35.7%. However, there were increases in concentrations of butyl and ethyl paraben, which were detected in about half the girls. These chemicals might have been unintentional contaminants or unlabeled ingredients in replacement products, which they acknowledge they were unable to ensure were paraben free 40.
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Endocrine-disrupting chemicals found in common household products cost hundreds of billions of dollars in health
Endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs) found in common household products and our environment cost the USA economy $340 billion in added health costs and the European economy $217 billion.
Endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs) contribute to disease and dysfunction and incur high associated costs. The disease costs of EDCs were much higher in the USA ($340 billion) than in Europe [( $217 billion). The difference was driven mainly by intelligence quotient (IQ) points loss and intellectual disability due to polybrominated diphenyl ethers (11 million IQ points lost and 43 000 cases costing $266 billion in the USA vs 873 000 IQ points lost and 3290 cases costing $12·6 billion in the European Union).
With annual costs being so high the researchers suggest the need for improved screening for chemical disruption to endocrine systems and proactive prevention. Exposure to chemicals in pesticides, toys, makeup, food packaging and detergents costs the U.S. more than $340 billion annually due to health care costs and lost wages. The chemicals, known as endocrine disruptors, impact how human hormones function and have been linked to a variety of health problems such as impaired brain development, lower IQs, behavior problems, infertility, birth defects, obesity and diabetes.
The researchers also looked at common chemicals such as bisphenol-A (BPA), used in polycarbonate plastics, food tin cans and receipts; and phthalates, found in food containers and cosmetics.
The authors of the study said their prediction is that the calculated costs to society will increase substantially once we get better documentation on ..additional substances and additional adverse effects.
A study released this week in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives showed that using personal care products without toxic endocrine (hormone) disrupting chemicals (EDC’s) for 3 days dramatically reduces exposure levels in girls. These chemicals have been linked with many health disorders including a recent findings showing a very strong link with breast cancer in human and animal studies. Malignant breast tumors are the leading cause of cancer in women worldwide in terms of incidence and mortality.
Cosmetics, fragrances, and other personal care products are a possible source of human exposure to potentially endocrine-disrupting chemicals, such as phthalates, parabens, and phenols especially for woman and adolescent girls. Women are the primary consumers of many personal care products, they are disproportionately exposed to these chemicals. Adolescent girls may be at particular risk of exposure through this route. For example, one small study found that the average adult woman uses approximately 12 individual personal care products each day, whereas the average teenage girl uses 17. Personal care products are a source of exposure to potentially endocrine-disrupting chemicals such as phthalates, parabens, triclosan, and benzophenone-3 (BP-3) for adolescent girls.
Personal care product use is widespread, and human exposure to these chemicals is nearly ubiquitous, with mono-ester phthalate metabolites of DEP, DnBP, and DiBP detected in the urine of more than 96% of Americans. Methyl and propyl parabens were found in more than 90% of individuals, BP-3 in 97%, and triclosan in 75%
The three phthalates most commonly used in personal care products are diethyl phthalate (DEP), which is found in scented products, including perfumes, deodorants, soaps, and shampoo; and di-n-butyl phthalate (DnBP) and di-isobutyl phthalate (DiBP), which are used in nail polish and cosmetics. The parabens commonly used in personal care products include methyl, ethyl, butyl, and propyl paraben, which are used as preservatives and antibacterial agents in cosmetics. Two phenols are also commonly used in personal care products. Triclosan is an antimicrobial compound used in liquid soaps, acne cream, deodorants, shaving cream, and certain toothpastes. Benzophenone-3 (BP-3), also known as oxybenzone, is used in sunscreens, lip balm, and other sun protection products.
In a study of 100 Latina girls using personal care products that did not contain these chemicals for just 3 days significantly lowered their urinary concentrations of the chemicals. Urine samples were analyzed for phthalate metabolites, parabens, triclosan, and BP-3. The study found most of the EDC’s were significantly lowered after 3 days but not all. Urinary concentrations of mono-ethyl phthalate (MEP) decreased by 27.4% on average over the 3-day intervention but no significant changes were seen in urinary concentrations of mono-n-butyl phthalate (MnBP) and mono-isobutyl phthalate (MiBP). Methyl and propyl paraben concentrations decreased by 43.9% and 45.4% respectively. Unexpectedly, concentrations of ethyl and butyl paraben concentrations increased, although concentrations were low overall and not detected in almost half the samples. Triclosan concentrations decreased by 35.7% and BP-3 concentrations decreased by 36.0%.
This study demonstrates that choosing personal care products that are labeled to be free of phthalates, parabens, triclosan, and BP-3, can reduce personal exposure to possible endocrine-disrupting chemicals.
Kim G. Harley,et al 2016. Environ Health Perspect; DOI:10.1289/ehp.1510514. Reducing Phthalate, Paraben, and Phenol Exposure from Personal Care Products in Adolescent Girls: Findings from the HERMOSA Intervention Study.