The Global Fool

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Early Menopause: Links to Ubiquitous Endocrine-Disrupting Chemicals
Feb23

Early Menopause: Links to Ubiquitous Endocrine-Disrupting Chemicals

By Roberta Attanasio There are as many endocrine-disrupting chemicals (also called endocrine disruptors) as there are deleterious health effects caused by them. These chemicals mimic the body’s hormones and confuse our physiological systems — we respond to them with a series of inappropriate changes that, depending on the specific endocrine disruptor, lead to the development of obesity, cancer, malformation of sex organs, and more. They are pervasive in the environment — they’re found in the soil, air and water throughout the world — and many persist for long periods of time. Thus, it’s not surprising that, in 2013, the impact of endocrine disruptors on human health was defined as a “global threat” by a group of experts convened by the United Nations Environment Programme and the World Health Organization.   Phthalates are some of the most studied endocrine disruptors. They’re used to make plastic more flexible and cosmetics smoother. Phthalate use in children’s toys was banned in 2008. However, results from a recent study show that high amounts of certain phthalates are present in some meats, cooking oils and dairy products, thus contributing to children exposure despite the ban. In her article “A threat to male fertility“, Deborah Blum writes: “A growing body of work over the last two decades suggests that phthalates can rewire the male reproductive system, interfering with the operation of androgenic hormones, such as testosterone, that play key roles in male development. That mechanism, some experts believe, explains findings that link phthalate exposure to changes in everything from testicular development to sperm quality.” In addition, according to results from a new study, two phthalates belong to a group of 15 chemicals that are significantly associated with early menopause and may have detrimental effects on ovarian function. Earlier menopause and decline in ovarian function may adversely affect fertility and lead to earlier development of heart disease and osteoporosis. The other chemicals are nine polychlorinated biphenyls, three pesticides, and a furan. Women that have high levels of these chemicals in their bodies experience menopause two to four years earlier than women with lower levels of these chemicals. For the study, the researchers analyzed data collected from 1999-2008 as part of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, conducted by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The survey incrporated data from 31,575 people, including 1,442 menopausal women who had been tested for presence of endocrine-disrupting chemicals in their blood and urines. It was designed so that the women who had undergone chemical testing would represent a population of almost 9 million menopausal women. The strongest association with early menopause was found for mono-(2-ethyl-5-hydroxyhexyl) phthalate and mono-(2-ethyl-5-oxohexyl) phthalate,...

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Preterm Birth and Exposure to Environmental Pollutants
Nov25

Preterm Birth and Exposure to Environmental Pollutants

By Roberta Attanasio “Being born too soon is an unrecognized killer” – these are the words of Professor Joy Lawn, Director of the MARCH Centre at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and a Senior Health Advisor to Save the Children. Professor Lawn is one of the co-editors of a 2012 seminal report entitled “Born too soon: the global action report on preterm birth.” Globally, more than 15 million babies are born prematurely (before 37 completed weeks of gestation) each year, with over a million neonatal deaths from complications of preterm birth. To reduce the global staggering numbers of preterm births, it is necessary to find ways to help all pregnancies go to full term, or 39 weeks. “Prevention will be the key”, said Elizabeth Mason, M.D., Director of Maternal, Newborn, Child and Adolescent Health at the World Health Organization and a major contributor to the report, “We are now looking closely at what can be done before a woman gets pregnant to help her have an optimal outcome.” Strong research programs are needed to clearly identify and understand the large variety of risk factors associated with preterm births, so that appropriate action can be taken to limit the number of  ”born too soon” babies. What are some of the potential risk factors? Could exposure to environmental pollutants be one of them? This is certainly an understudied factor. Now, a new study published online on November 18, 2013,  in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) Pediatrics and entitled “Environmental Phthalate Exposure and Preterm Birth” concludes that “Women exposed to phthalates during pregnancy have significantly increased odds of delivering preterm. Steps should be taken to decrease maternal exposure to phthalates during pregnancy.” According to a fact sheet published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “Phthalates are a group of chemicals used to make plastics more flexible and harder to break. They are often called plasticizers. Some phthalates are used as solvents (dissolving agents) for other materials. They are used in hundreds of products, such as vinyl flooring, adhesives, detergents, lubricating oils, automotive plastics, plastic clothes (raincoats), and personal-care products (soaps, shampoos, hair sprays, and nail polishes).” People, including pregnant women, are exposed to phthalates worldwide. The CDC fact sheet states that “by measuring phthalate metabolites in urine, scientists can estimate the amount of phthalates that have entered people’s bodies.” Using this method, CDC researchers found that phthalate exposure is widespread in the U.S. population and that adult women have higher levels of urinary metabolites than men for those phthalates that are used in soaps, body washes, shampoos, cosmetics, and similar personal care products.” The...

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