News / Health

Many Synthetic Chemicals Disrupt Hormone System

A view of red polluted water in the Jianhe River in Luoyang, Henan province, December 13, 2011. According to local media, the sources of the pollution are two illegal chemical plants discharging their production waste water into the rain sewer pipes.A view of red polluted water in the Jianhe River in Luoyang, Henan province, December 13, 2011. According to local media, the sources of the pollution are two illegal chemical plants discharging their production waste water into the rain sewer pipes.
x
A view of red polluted water in the Jianhe River in Luoyang, Henan province, December 13, 2011. According to local media, the sources of the pollution are two illegal chemical plants discharging their production waste water into the rain sewer pipes.
A view of red polluted water in the Jianhe River in Luoyang, Henan province, December 13, 2011. According to local media, the sources of the pollution are two illegal chemical plants discharging their production waste water into the rain sewer pipes.
Lisa Schlein
A new study by the U.N. Environment Program and the World Health Organization finds many synthetic chemicals affect the hormone system and could have significant health implications.  The joint study updates scientific evidence presented 10 years ago and identifies the effects of human exposure to so-called Hormone-Disrupting Chemicals. 

Human health depends on a well-functioning endocrine or glandular system to regulate the release of certain hormones that are essential for some functions.  They regulate metabolism, growth and development, sleep and mood. 

Some substances known as endocrine disrupters can alter the functions of this hormonal system increasing the risk of adverse health effects.  World Health Organization Director of Public Health and Environment, Maria Neira, says there is growing evidence that some endocrinal disrupting disorders or diseases are on the rise. 

“The speed to which these diseases are increasing cannot exclusively be justified by genetic problems," said Dr. Neira. "It has to be as well be associated with environmental factors, issues like nutrition or bad nutrition or age or other factors that I would say are external and probably combined.” 

Endocrine disrupting chemicals are found in many household and industrial products.  They can enter the environment mainly through industrial and urban discharges, agricultural run-off and the burning and release of waste.

Human exposure to these chemicals can create a lower sperm count in young men and contribute to breast cancer in women.  Dr. Neira says prostate cancer risks are higher among those men exposed to pesticides, particularly in those countries where occupational health is not well developed.

“We have an association as well with adverse effects on the developing nervous system  in children and those can include a negative impact on brain development... and we have seen an excess risk of thyroid cancer among those workers who are using pesticides,” said Dr. Neira.

The report also raises concerns on the impact of endocrine disrupting chemicals on wildlife.  For example, it notes exposure to such chemicals in the U.S. State of Alaska may contribute to reproductive defects, infertility and antler malformation in some deer populations. 

It says the decline in population species of otters and sea lions may also be partially due to their exposure to PCBs, the insecticide DDT, and other persistent organic pollutants and metals, such as mercury.

Among its recommendations, the study urges more comprehensive testing to identify other possible endocrine disrupters, their sources, and routes of exposure.  It notes what is known about these chemicals is just the tip of the iceberg.

You May Like

Video One Year After Thai Coup, No End in Sight for Military Rule

Since carrying out the May 22, 2014 coup, the general has retired from the military but is still firmly in charge More

Job-Seeking Bangladeshis Risk Lives to Find Work

The number of Bangladeshi migrants on smugglers’ boats bound for Southeast Asian countries has soared in the past two years More

Video Scientists Say We Need Softer Robots

Today’s robots are mostly hard, rigid machines, with sharp edges and forceful movements, but researchers at Carnegie Mellon University say they should be softer and therefore safer More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthroughi
X
May 22, 2015 10:23 AM
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthrough

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Europe Follows US Lead in Tackling ‘Conflict Minerals’

Metals mined from conflict zones in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo are often sold by warlords to buy weapons. This week European lawmakers voted to force manufacturers to prove that their supply chains are not inadvertently fueling conflicts and human rights abuses. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Class Tackles Questions of Race, Discrimination

Unrest in some U.S. cities is more than just a trending news item at Ladue Middle School in St. Louis, Missouri. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, it’s a focus of a multicultural studies class engaging students in wide-ranging discussions about racial tensions and police aggression.
Video

Video Mind-Controlled Prosthetics Are Getting Closer

Scientists and engineers are making substantial advances towards the ultimate goal in prosthetics – creation of limbs that can be controlled by the wearer’s mind. Thanks to sophisticated sensors capable of picking up the brain’s signals, an amputee in Iceland is literally bringing us one step closer to that goal. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Foreign Troops Depart

As international troops prepare to leave Afghanistan, and many foreign aid groups follow, Afghans are grappling with how the exodus will affect the country's fragile economy. Ayesha Tanzeem reports from the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.

VOA Blogs