Saturday, February 6, 2010

This week's topic is Androgen/Estrogen Disruption

Could write a book here, but will be brief for now.  First listen to (and watch if you want) this clip:  Tone setting music.  Endocrine disruptors are chemicals that mimic or interfere with "signals" from the endocrine system (glands).  Examples of hormones are androgens (such as testosterone), estrogens, thyroid hormones, epinephrine (aka adrenaline) etc.  Examples of endocrine disrupting chemicals in the environment (and/or food and drinking water) are phthalates, bisphenol A (BPA) and perchlorate.  You can read numerous articles on endocrine disruption in Environmental Health Perspectives, including that of Reproductive Toxicology Rock Star Shanna Swan.  This is a great source of information because its peer-reviewed and you can get the entire article for free. 

Phthalates and BPA are part of many plastics and they interfere with sex hormones (in this case estrogen mimics).  This is hugely important during fetal development as organsystems (including brain) are being formed.  Had a student ask if increased exposures to estrogenic compounds would results in higher rates of homosexuality.   Not sure that this is appropriate to discuss here, but estrogen is the hormone that  masculinizes the brain, so you might see a tendency towards masculinization and associated behavioral traits.  Yes, sex hormones are important for brain development. A lot of other chemicals may have similar effects. Will link to an interesting article reporting on prenatal exposure to phthalates and aggressive, disruptive behavior during childhood.
Click "manufacturer's point of view" for information on industry response.  Businesses often put their own interests first.  There is nothing wrong with that as long as it doesn't hurt anyone else.  My opinion.

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