Endocrine disruptor

Endocrine disruptors, as the name suggests, are chemicals that interfere with the body's hormones. Endocrine-disrupting chemicals or EDCs are linked to reproductive, developmental, and brain problems along with cancer and metabolic disease. EDCs can be found in household products such as plastic bottles, detergents, and food. Endocrine disruptors have proven to be harmful to animals, but limited research exists to causally link them to health problems in humans.

What are endocrine disruptors?

Endocrine disruptors, also known as “hormonally active agents,” are chemicals that interfere with the body’s hormonal system. Exposure to endocrine disruptors can trigger or increase risk for a number of medical conditions, including cancerous tumours, developmental problems, immune problems, and birth defects.

Endocrine-disrupting chemicals are found in common household products, such as plastic bottles, detergents, and food storage containers, as well as in items that someone may be exposed to as part of their occupation, like pesticides.  Common endocrine disruptors include bisphenol A (BPA) and phthalates, both found in many plastics. Controversy surrounds the inclusion of endocrine-disrupting chemicals in household items, but limited scientific research exists to support the complete eradication of them in the marketplace.

Endocrine disruptors and male fertility

Endocrine disruptors likely have an adverse effect on male fertility, and exposure to these chemicals is associated with a number of issues, including impaired sperm production and poor morphology. In addition, endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs) may lower sperm concentration and increase sperm DNA fragmentation.

While exposure to endocrine disruptors has been proven to cause congenital abnormalities in male genitalia and reduce sperm production in animals, it is difficult to conclude definitively if it is the case for humans. Consequently, the link between male infertility and endocrine disruptors is lacking. However, they are known to interfere with the hormones involved in fertility. 

History of endocrine disruptor

The term endocrine disruptor was initially coined at the Wingspread Conference Center in Wisconsin in 1991. Professor Theo Colborn was one of the first environmental health analysts to write on this phenomenon, concluding that environmental chemicals disrupt the development of the endocrine system. She also stated that exposure to these disruptors during development can lead to permanent effects. In 2013, the World Health Organization (WHO) released an updated list of EDCs, advocating for more research on the matter. 

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