Exposure to hormone disruptors is greater than previously thought. Where are they?

The Spanish Society of Endocrinology and Nutrition (SEEN), within the framework of European Hormone Day, warns that “the demonstration in various European studies of the presence of endocrine disruptors in the blood and urine of people of any age range highlights “It shows that human exposure is greater than expected,” warns Dr. Nicolás Olea, coordinator of the Endocrinology and Environment Group of the SEEN.

Substances with endocrine activity are substances that can interact with or interfere with normal hormonal action. When this causes adverse effects, they are called endocrine disruptors.

These chemical substances, with a diverse structure and origin, alter the information that hormones must transmit between one organ and another, for example, between the ovary and the breast.

Research focuses mostly on the interference of endocrine disruptors with female (estrogen), male (androgen) sex hormones, thyroid and the control of metabolism, although they can affect any hormonal system.

It is not surprising that, with nearly 140,000 synthetic chemical compounds, around 2,000 environmental contaminants with the capacity to interfere with hormonal control have been detected.

In this sense, Dr. Olea points out that, as a consequence of endocrine disruption, there is an increase in diseases related to neurodevelopment and growth, sexual maturity, fertility, weight control and obesity, hypothyroidism, and even , cancer in hormone-dependent organs (breast, testicle, uterus, among others).

Pregnant women, the most vulnerable

Likewise, the specialist recalls in a statement the 'close relationship' between the exposure of pregnant women to endocrine disruptors and the transfer to their offspring: “They may be exposed to some persistent endocrine disruptors that accumulate in your body (bioaccumulation) prior to pregnancy and breastfeeding becoming transmitters of these compounds to their offspring.”

The susceptibility of the developing individual (embryo, fetus, infant) to untimely or deregulated hormonal action highlights the importance of prevention in relation to maternal and infant exposure to endocrine disruptors.

“Society must be aware of the fragility and vulnerability of the process, so it must use all means to preserve the exposure of fertile women,” demands Dr. Olea.

The digestive tract is one of the most common ways these contaminants are incorporated into the body.

These chemicals have been detected in food production (pesticides such as DDT or chlorpyrifos), marketing (plastic packaging with bisphenol-A or phthalates) and preparation (non-stick kitchen utensils with PFAS). In the case of BPA, Europe, after 20 years under suspicion, wants to ban it in materials in contact with food. However, approval continues to be delayed and, most importantly, there are no harmless substitutes.

The inhalation route is also a way of entry of endocrine disruptors through their presence as atmospheric pollutants or inside the home. through the dust.

In relation to dermal exposure, endocrine disruptors are found in cosmetics and personal care products containing, for example, parabens or benzophenones.

The coordinator of the Endocrinology and Environment Group maintains that citizens have a limited capacity to access all the scientific information available, which is why they trust that the regulation of chemical compounds will protect society from inconvenient exposures.

However, it alludes to the delay in this process, since when a compound is withdrawn from the market in some of its high-risk exposure applications, many years have passed since the consequences were alerted.

“It is the obligation of healthcare professionals and, especially, the endocrinologist, to incorporate the available information into their clinical practice to offer recommendations on the prevention of exposure and to use the information acquired to investigate the cause and origin of the diseases under study” he insists.

Finally, Dr. Olea also highlights the weaknesses of the toxicity evaluation systems of many chemical compounds that contribute to hormonal disruption as evidenced by basic and clinical research: “Many endocrine disruptors have never been evaluated closely enough.” and now we know their ability to act in a combined way, what is known as the cocktail effect,” he concludes.