Hormone disruptors, also known as endocrine disruptors, are chemicals that interfere with the normal functioning of the endocrine system in humans and animals. These substances can mimic, block, or interfere with the production, release, transport, metabolism, or elimination of natural hormones in the body.
They can affect the endocrine system by:
1. **Mimicking hormones:** They can imitate natural hormones, fooling the body's receptors and causing responses that aren't appropriate.
2. **Blocking hormone receptors:** They can bind to a receptor within a cell and block the endogenous hormone from binding. This prevents the normal signal from occurring.
3. **Altering hormone levels:** Some disruptors can affect the synthesis or breakdown of hormones, leading to abnormal hormonal levels in the body.
These disruptors can be found in various everyday products, such as pesticides, plastics, industrial chemicals, cosmetics, and some pharmaceuticals. Exposure to these chemicals has been linked to various health issues, including reproductive problems, developmental disorders, neurological issues, immune system disturbances, and certain cancers.
Common examples of hormone disruptors include bisphenol-A (BPA), phthalates, dioxins, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), and certain pesticides like DDT. Efforts to minimize exposure to these substances involve regulatory measures, consumer awareness, and the development of safer alternatives in various industries.
What should you do:
Reducing exposure to hormone disruptors involves a few steps:
1. **Be aware of products:** Look for labels that say "BPA-free" or "phthalate-free" on plastics and avoid products with synthetic fragrances, as these often contain hormone disruptors.
2. **Go natural:** Choose natural cleaning and personal care products. Opt for organic foods when possible, as pesticides can contain disruptors.
3. **Use alternatives:** Replace plastic containers and bottles with glass or stainless steel. Use wax paper or glass containers for food storage instead of plastic wrap or containers.
4. **Eat mindfully:** Eat a balanced diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables. Washing produce well can help remove pesticide residues.
5. **Support safer regulations:** Support regulations that limit the use of hormone disruptors in products and encourage companies to develop safer alternatives.
By making small changes in our daily habits and supporting efforts for safer regulations, we can help reduce exposure to hormone disruptors and protect our health.