amount of chemicals in our environment is rising at an alarming rate. According
to the National Toxicology Program (NTP) there are more than 80,000 chemicals that
are registered for use in the United States. Even more alarming, there is an estimated
2,000 new ones introduced each year. The NTP reports that these chemicals are
marketed for use in everyday items such as in “foods, personal care products,
prescription drugs, household cleaners, and lawn care products.”
I’ve written several articles on my website that
discussed the negative health impacts that could ensue if we do not take steps
to mitigate our detrimental exposures. In fact, these chemicals can have an
insidious influence on our body causing a wide-array of symptoms that may leave
their contributing effects ignored. For example, several studies have linked
ADHD to certain
pesticides and chemicals. In one such study, which reported on a correlation
between maternal exposure to chemicals and autism and ADHD, the authors believed
that potential mechanisms of these toxins were related to their negative
impacts on the thyroid and the neurotransmitter, GABA.
prevalent category of negative elements in our environment is the endocrine
disrupting chemicals (EDCs). They are defined by the European Union as external
substances that can cause adverse health effects in an organism or its
offspring, secondary to changes in endocrine hormone function.
recent article entitled, “Estimating
Burden and Disease Costs of Exposure to Endocrine-Disrupting Chemicals in the
European Union,” calculated probable causation exposure to EDCs and diseases,
including the economic burden of these detrimental health outcomes. The article
panels achieved consensus at least for probable (>20%) EDC causation for IQ
loss and associated intellectual disability, autism, attention-deficit
hyperactivity disorder, childhood obesity, adult obesity, adult diabetes,
cryptorchidism, male infertility, and mortality associated with reduced
testosterone. Accounting for probability of causation and using the midpoint of
each range for probability of causation, Monte Carlo simulations produced a
median cost of €157 billion (or $209 billion, corresponding to 1.23% of EU
gross domestic product) annually across 1000 simulations. Notably, using the
lowest end of the probability range for each relationship in the Monte Carlo
simulations produced a median range of €109 billion that differed modestly from
base case probability inputs.
noted in my article, “Calming
the Back to School Jitters Naturally,” these chemicals may not be the cause of various
disorders for everyone, but they can certainly be triggers or contributors to
an already susceptible individual. (For example, one would also want to
consider genetics, the microbiome, inflammatory processes, nutrient
deficiencies, and gut health… among other factors.)
One area that many may not consider in relationship
to toxicity is pregnancy and the effect on the developing fetus. For example, in a recent article published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology, researchers revealed that the breastfed
babies had more exposure to a common class of industrial chemicals called
perfluorinated alkylate substances (PFASs). The fact that breastmilk may
transfer toxins was also reported when the herbicide glyphosate was found in
women’s breastmilk in a previous study. Still, it’s important to remember that
babies are also getting many beneficial things from breastmilk that assist with
their health. Furthermore, women who are aware of harmful exposures can
mitigate risk by various lifestyle support measures prior to conception and
after, which I’ll discuss later.
Even prior to introduction of food, babies have
already been found to be inflicted with a large body burden of harmful
substances. According to the Environmental Working Group, “In a study spearheaded by the
Environmental Working Group (EWG) in collaboration with Commonwealth,
researchers at two major laboratories found an average of 200 industrial
chemicals and pollutants in umbilical cord blood from 10 babies born in August
and September of 2004 in U.S. hospitals.”
2012, a study analyzed the urinary parabens, methyl (MP), propyl (PP), and butyl
paraben (BP) among couples from a fertility center. Parabens are suspected
endocrine disruptors. The researchers reported that parabens were found in
their sample population:
Between 2005 and 2010, we collected 2,721 spot
urine samples from 245 men and 408 women. The median concentrations were 112
µg/L (MP), 24.2 µg/L (PP), and 0.70 µg/L (BP). Urinary MP and PP concentrations
were 4.6 and 7.8 times higher in women than men…
levels varied during pregnancy, with less amounts during pregnancy than prior
pregnancy. This could reflect less exposure by the mom by changing personal
care products, or, more scarily, more transfer of them to baby.
The authors also stated, “Although understudied, it
is possible that parabens may affect fetal growth. If this were the case,
gestational age estimated using crown-rump length could be less accurate among
women with higher urinary paraben concentrations, potentially biasing estimates
of the change in paraben concentrations with each additional week of pregnancy.”
Environmental Working Group reviewed some findings
on paraben and its link to pregnancy. They state:
researchers have confirmed propyl paraben’s effects on the endocrine system. It
acts as a synthetic estrogenic compound and can alter hormone signaling and
gene expression (Routledge 1998; Terasaka 2006; Vo 2011; Wróbel 2014). A recent
study by researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health suggested that
exposure to propyl paraben might be associated with diminished fertility (Smith
endocrine signaling is particularly important during critical windows of
development–while in the womb and during childhood and adolescence. Chemicals
that disrupt hormone signaling can lead to adverse effects on development,
reproduction, and the neurological and immune systems.
Finally, one study summarized how exposure of
parabens could affect even getting pregnant to begin with and the necessity to
consider this factor. They concluded:
suggesting that exposure to PP may lead to diminished ovarian reserve and
contribute to ovarian aging among women at an infertility clinic. It has been
estimated that in 2002 there were > 7 million women with impaired fecundity
in the United States, and > 5 million women were reported as seeking help to
become pregnant (Chandra et al. 2005). This is a large subpopulation of women
that may be especially sensitive to endocrine-disrupting chemicals. Finally,
although the parabens evaluated for the present study are considered to be safe
(have a GRAS designation) based on a 1972 decision by the FDA (FDA 2013), given
their widespread use and ubiquitous human exposure, further research using
modern toxicologic designs and end points may be warranted. Our results suggest
the need for future human studies to explore these associations in other
populations with a larger sample size.
These effects on fertility have also been studied
specifically in males. A 2003 study showed preliminary evidence that the environmental
levels of a phthalate metabolite, monoethyl phthalate, was associated with
altered DNA integrity in human sperm specimens sampled. Other studies have reported on connections
between phthalates and pesticide exposure to various reproductive and other
to Do With All the Doom & Gloom
The good news is there are safe and effective ways
that you can mitigate your exposure. I have written about them in the various
articles mentioned on my webpage, so I encourage you to review them. These
include choosing organic foods to decrease pesticide exposure, finding less
chemical-laden personal and household products, and using specific nutrients to
assist the liver and organs of elimination in ridding the body of these burdens.
If you read
this article, at the end are more specific details.
I’ve seen many symptoms improve with my clients when
environmental exposure is addressed. This is not meant to scare you, but to
empower you and your loved ones to look into something that may have not been
addressed when struggling with less than optimal health. Furthermore, if women
are looking to become pregnant, they can use this information to take some time
to relieve their body burden of toxins prior to conception.
I’d love to hear your comments below, especially
from those who were helped when they looked into toxic exposure!
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