Perhaps you have never heard of endocrine disruptors or disruptors, but you may have recently read something about the ban, made by Anvisa (National Health Surveillance Agency), of bottles with Bisphenol A (BPA) – a substance present in polycarbonate plastic and epoxy resin, and which is associated with various health problems.
Endocrine disruptors are substances that are in the environment and that act on the human endocrine system. According to Cristiane Kochi, member of SBEM-SP (São Paulo Regional of the Brazilian Society of Endocrinology and Metabology), this action can occur by different mechanisms. “These disruptors can be natural or synthetic and these substances accumulate in the environment and enter our bodies through the air, water, packaging that contains food and other products used at work and at home. In addition, disruptors can have passage through the placenta and into breast milk,” she explains.
Patrícia Peschel Alves Silva, an endocrinologist at Clínica Sete, in Curitiba, highlights that these substances are deleterious to endocrine function, acting on receptors, synthesis or signaling pathways of these hormones. “With this, they can harm growth, development, reproductive function, immune system, neurological system and even be related to the development of cancers”, she says. “They can be found in pesticides, electronics, cosmetics, plastics, personal care items, food, etc.,” she adds.
According to Patrícia Silva, the biggest concern is in relation to the potential effects of early exposure to disruptors, in utero, in babies, children, adolescents and pregnant women. “New studies report effects on children’s neural development, genital malformation in boys, attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder in children, precocious puberty, reproductive disorders and endocrine-related cancers (prostate, breasts, thyroid) and other disorders,” he says. Is it over there.
Endocrinologist Patricia points out that there are about 800 chemical substances known or suspected to be capable of interfering with hormonal function, but only a few of them have been investigated in tests capable of identifying their effects. And the biggest problem is that, as some substances are diffused in the soil, air, there are difficulties in avoiding them.
Below you can see a list of names and information about where some endocrine disruptors are found:
Chemical substance present in fireworks, fertilizers, explosives. “It can act negatively on the formation of thyroid hormone, which can lead to hypothyroidism (lack of thyroid hormone). It is very soluble in water and milk and can, in cases of lactating women, affect the baby’s thyroid function”, says Patrícia Silva.
How to avoid it: One way to avoid perchlorate water would be to opt for reverse osmosis filters.
Metal that oxidizes quickly in air and water, metal alloys, batteries and is also used in the treatment of bipolar disorders. “It can cause hypothyroidism (decreases the formation of thyroid hormones), changes in the parathyroid and diabetes insipidus”, says endocrinologist Patrícia.
How to avoid: Never take medication without medical advice. The substance present in them, if ingested unnecessarily and irregularly, can be fatal.
They are unintended by-products of various industrial processes. “Due to the great ease of spreading through the atmosphere, waters and rivers, they are now diffusely present on the globe. They take from years to centuries to be degraded and can be recycled in the environment”, says Patrícia Silva.
According to the endocrinologist, the most potent dioxin is 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin (TCDD). “Humans are exposed to dioxins through food, through meat, fish and dairy products. The International Agency for Research on Cancer classifies TCDD as a known human carcinogen, related to all types of cancer, being a multi-site carcinogen. There are studies that even correlate it with endometriosis”, he adds, an endocrinologist.
How to avoid: One way to avoid them would be to reduce the consumption of products of animal origin, which are more likely to be contaminated by dioxin in industries.
According to Patrícia Silva, the chemical pesticide atrazine is found in water and food, and is related to the increased incidence of obesity in children. In addition, there are studies that link it to Parkinson’s syndrome.
How to avoid it: Consuming more organic foods and buying a water filter that removes atrazine are some ways to avoid it.
“A widespread product on the planet, phthalates are used in the manufacture of flexible vinyl plastics. Human exposure is through ingestion, inhalation, through the skin. There are studies showing an association with early menopause by mechanisms that are still unclear. There is other evidence of altered semen quality”, explains endocrinologist Patrícia.
How to avoid: To try to avoid it, a tip would be to reduce contact with plastic containers, toys and personal hygiene products that contain phthalates.
6. Bisphenol A (BPA)
According to Patrícia Silva, Bisphenol A is a substance used to make polycarbonate – which gives rise to hardened, transparent plastic – and is used in the manufacture of baby bottles, plastic bottles, baby cups and various plastic products. “It is also present in epoxy resin that coats cans and food packaging, to increase conservation, and in dental sealants”, says the endocrinologist.
BPA is similar in structure to estrogen (female hormone) and can reprogram cells and cause health damage. “Human studies correlate high blood levels of BPA with obesity, thyroid problems, infertility, asthma, heart and neurological disease. Animal studies show that BPA can cause cancer,” says Patrícia.
The endocrinologist Cristiane Kochi points out that, recently, Anvisa banned in Brazil the use of baby bottles with BPA. “Important action to reduce children’s exposure to this substance”, she considers.
In 2010, SBEM-SP launched the campaign “Say no to Bisphenol A, life doesn’t have a plan B” to ban the substance from children’s products and food packaging. Guidelines for avoiding the substance are:
- Use bottles and glassware or BPA Free for babies;
- Never heat drinks and food packed in plastic in the microwave. Bisphenol A is released in greater amounts when plastic is heated;
- Avoid taking food and drinks packed in plastic to the freezer. The release of the compound is also more intense when there is a cooling of the plastic;
- Avoid plates, cups and other plastic utensils. Opt for glass, porcelain and stainless steel when storing drinks and food;
- Discard chipped or scratched plastic utensils. Avoid washing them with strong detergents or putting them in the dishwasher;
- If you use plastic packaging to store food or drinks, avoid those that have the recycling symbols with numbers 3 and 7 inside and on the back of the packaging. They indicate that the packaging contains or may contain BPA in its composition.
Patrícia Silva points out that, despite the ban on bottles with BPA, made by Anvisa, it is essential to observe if other plastic packages do not contain the substance, that is, if they are really “BPA Free”.
Lead is a heavy metal found in paint, batteries and aviation gasoline. “It can contaminate soils and, with it, crops and water tables. Workers in the battery, construction and plastics industries are most exposed to it. Normally, the exposure is chronic, but it can be acute if in larger amounts”, explains endocrinologist Patrícia.
“Exposure to lead can cause inhibition of an enzyme necessary for the manufacture of the heme radical – important for the formation of red blood cells –, causing anemia. It can accumulate in the thyroid, adrenals, testes, ovaries, and pituitary. It can cause hypothyroidism by altering the pituitary gland, decreasing the quality and quantity of semen and testicular atrophy”, says the doctor. “By crossing the placental barrier, it can reach the baby’s central nervous system, causing encephalopathy, which may increase the rate of miscarriage and malformation”, adds Patrícia.
How to avoid: One way would be to keep your house always clean and well maintained. Disintegration of old paint can be a major source of lead exposure. A good quality water filter can also reduce lead exposure in drinking water.
According to Patrícia Silva, mercury is also a heavy metal with an affinity for enzymes, hemoglobin and proteins. “It can contaminate water and food like fish. It accumulates in the pancreas, testis and prostate. It causes menstrual changes, less ovulations. It is teratogenic, crosses the placental barrier and breast milk and increases the risk of miscarriages”, explains the endocrinologist. “Mercury can also cause visual and hearing changes, dizziness and headache”, adds the doctor.
How to avoid: Always check the origin of the fish you consume and use a good water filter at home.
Endocrinologist Cristiane Kochi points out that several medical societies around the world have used the precautionary principle in relation to disruptors. “In other words, there is a concern about the potential deleterious effects on our body, but there is still no scientific proof. It would be important, therefore, to try to reduce exposure to these substances, especially from our children,” she concludes.
That way, everyone can start doing their part, avoiding, at least, the contact of children with BPA. In addition, it is interesting to talk to your trusted doctor about these substances and follow possible guidelines to avoid exposure to them.
The information contained on this page is for informational purposes only. They do not replace the advice and follow-up of doctors, nutritionists, psychologists, physical education professionals and other specialists.
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