Endocrine disruptors

A report of the General Inspection of Social Affair (IGAS) published on Friday February 2, highlights the positive, but limited results of the national method on endocrine disruptors established by France in 2014. The opportunity to come back on a 25 years old topic widely controversial.


© https://www.healthandenvironment.org/

What is an endocrine disruptor ?

The expression “endocrine disruptor” is invented in 1991 by Theo Colborn to designate a molecule which mimes, blocks or modifies the action of a hormone and disrupts the normal functioning of an organism.

These molecules are present in synthetic chemicals such as pesticides, cosmetics, plastics or food additives.

Worse, because hardly degradable and bioaccumulative, other endocrine disruptors (heavy metals such as lead and mercury) produced by incinerators are worrying.

If health issues generated by endocrine disruptors are widely known, -infertility, autism, abnormal fetus development, premature puberty, , cancers, diabetes, obesity or even neurological problems- the impact on the environment and the wildlife are less evoked.

The environment, eternal victim

The dispersion of endocrine disruptors is one of the too neglected aspects of the waste crisis. Many additives as bisphenol A and phthalates, chemical compounds found in plastic bags, contaminate oceans from billion of floating plastic particles which slowly overtake plankton at the beginning of the food chain. Such endocrine disruptors are also found in leachate, because of a lack of selective sorting at the source, and in effluents or treatment plant’s mud.

Animals, collateral victims of endocrine disruptors

Effects of endocrine disruptors on the wildlife are numerous : the diminution of the seals population in the Baltic sea; the thinning of the raptors eggshell; the decline of alligators and frogs population in a polluted lake etc.

Negative impacts have also been observed on fish development and reproduction as well as the development of male sexual organs in female marine mollusks such as snails and whelks. The effects on seals, birds and alligators are probably related to chlorinated pesticides.


Appearance of hermaphrodite fish with the proliferation of endocrine disruptors © Caricature of Mike Adams

The ecotoxicological risk is real for certain vertebrate and invertebrate species in an aquatic environment. Thus, pollution and endocrine disruptors are incriminated in the alterations of sexual differentiation for some aquatic reptiles.

Aquatic animals are therefore particularly affected by endocrine disruptors, especially carnivores which are at the end of the food chain, where persistent substances accumulate at a high concentration. There are more and more evidences that substances found in paper factories sewages can influence fish reproduction and growth.

The dramatic consequence is the same for all of these species : a high decline of their population.


A tadpole changing color in the presence of endocrine disruptors Xenopus tadpole © Dan Century, Flickr.com


The fight against endocrine disruptors : an international cause

The alarm signal was fired for the first time more than 25 years ago, from the disorders observed on the wildlife.

In Europe, during the Weybridge conference organized in December 1996 by the European commission and various organizations, more than 200 scientists called to “comb the regulation’s deficiencies and flaws” for “a better protection of the human health and the wildlife”.

In 2012, throughout the Endocrine Society Congress, a world wide reference in the subject, the Washington statement expand endocrine disruptors definition to “any substance or mixture of exogenous chemicals that can interfere with an hormone’s action”. Thus, they constitute a real environmental and public health issue.

In France in 2011, an INSERM collective expertise “Reproduction and Environment” mention the insufficient amount of epidemiological data to draw a conclusion. They note that more means are needed for researches to go forward.

How to fight against endocrine disruptors ?

Avoid polycarbonate packaging (plastic n°7), canned drinks and food and plastic dishes. It’s better to use glass and other materials containers.

It is also more appropriate to avoid plastic containers when a dish is microwaved and plastic bottles are not to be reused. Indeed, used plastic rejects more its plasticizers.

Inform yourself and respect the intended uses of market products. Manuals have every information required to avoid misuse.

Sign petitions to make the endocrine disruptors fight go forward, such as the one available on the association’s website : Together against endocrine disruptors.

Donate to associations such as Future generations, specialized in the pesticides fight.

Marjorie de Larichaudy, EVI editor.