Based on a report which it published last week the European Environment Agency has declared that the “increase in cancers and fertility problems may be caused by household chemicals and pharmaceuticals”.
The EEA states that “Chemicals which can potentially disrupt the endocrine system can be found in food, pharmaceuticals, pesticides, household products and cosmetics.” “It would be prudent to take a precautionary approach to many of these chemicals until their effects are more fully understood.”
The report, a summary of science research on endocrine disrupting substances, is the result of an international workshop that evaluated the findings of the last 15 years of research. It does not provide a list of the substances in household products or pharmaceuticals considered to be of greatest concern.
Among the possible effects of EDCs, the EEA states
- The link between some diseases and EDCs is now accepted. For example, exposure to estrogen or to estrogenic EDCs is an accepted risk factor for breast cancer, endometriosis, fibroids and polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) in women.
- Breast cancer rates are increasing in almost all industrialised countries. The majority of these cases are due to lifestyles and environmental exposures, rather than specific genetic factors.
- Some EDCs may also cause low quality semen. Detailed reviews of current knowledge show clearly that human male reproductive problems are increasing in many countries. There are large regional differences in semen quality. In some European regions approximately 40% of men suffer from reduced fertility while in others it is less than 10%
- Laboratory studies show that the reproductive systems of a broad range of vertebrate species, for example polar bears and fish, and some invertebrate species such as some snails and oysters are susceptible to EDCs.
- Some studies have linked EDCs to thyroid disease. Thyroid cancer rates have increased by between 5 % (Switzerland) and 155 % (France), particularly in women, children and young adults.
- Several studies have also linked exposure to some EDCs with neurodevelopmental disorders such as autism, attention deficit disorder and diminished cognitive function in children. However, more work is needed in this area to confirm or refute theories involving the wider sphere of EDCs in modern commerce
- There is a trend towards the earlier onset of puberty in girls, which may be influenced by EDCs.
- Some persistent endocrine disrupting substances, such as DDT, TBT and PCBs – now banned or restricted in their use – have been shown to cause catastrophic declines in mollusc, seal and bird populations in some parts of the world as a result of their effects on reproduction. Scientists are concerned that many chemicals that are still in modern commerce also affect the human reproductive system.
The press release and a link to the full report are available at http://www.eea.europa.eu/pressroom/newsreleases/increase-in-cancers-and-fertility