Diabetes, obesity linked to chemical exposure – Endocrine Society

© David Gray
Scientific research has increasingly linked common chemicals found in everyday products to diabetes, obesity, cancer, and other major ailments, according to a new policy statement.

Endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs) like bisphenol A and phthalates, found in food can linings, plastics, cosmetics, and pesticides, are common to the point that everyone on Earth has been exposed to one or more. EDCs – which influence the body's natural hormones – mimic, block, or simply interfere with hormone functions, leading to the malformation of cells.

The Endocrine Society now says in a new scientific statement that research in recent years has repeatedly pointed to links between these and other chemicals to not only diabetes and obesity, but infertility and breast cancer.

"In 2015, there is far more conclusive evidence about whether, when, and how endocrine-disrupting chemicals perturb endocrine systems, including in humans," said the Endocrine Society, which includes health specialists involved in EDC research.

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"Thus, it is more necessary than ever to minimize further exposures, to identify new endocrine disrupting chemicals as they emerge, and to understand underlying mechanisms in order to develop methods to enable interventions in cases of endocrine disrupting chemical-associated disease. This is especially important because new chemicals may be released into the marketplace without appropriate safety testing."

The publicity was planned to coincide with the International Conference on Chemicals Management in Switzerland, where experts will stress the health risks of EDC exposure and ways to limit harmful EDCs.

"The evidence is more definitive than ever before - endocrine-disrupting chemicals disrupt hormones in a manner that harms human health," said Andrea Gore, a pharmacology professor at the University of Texas at Austin and chair of the task force that offered the statement.

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"Hundreds of studies are pointing to the same conclusion, whether they are long-term epidemiological studies in human, basic research in animals and cells, or research into groups of people with known occupational exposure to specific chemicals."

The Endocrine Society has called for more research into EDCs and their impact on human health. They also said regulators must require sound chemical testing before approval.

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"Animal studies found that exposure to even tiny amounts of endocrine disrupting chemicals during the prenatal period can trigger obesity later in life," the group said. "Similarly, animal studies found that some endocrine disrupting chemical s directly target beta and alpha cells in the pancreas, fat cells, and liver cells. This can lead to insulin resistance and an overabundance of the hormone insulin in the body - risk factors for Type 2 diabetes."

The group said mounting evidence has shown that EDCs are "connected to infertility, hormone-related cancers, neurological issues and other disorders."

EDC exposure costs the European Union $209 billion per year in health costs and lost earning potential, according to an economic analysis published in The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism in April.

The Endocrine Society will hold a Twitter chat on October 1 regarding health risks associated to EDC exposure.

According to the organization, 35 percent of US adults over the age of 20 are obese, as are nearly 17 percent of children. Meanwhile, more than 29 million American adults are diabetic.

EDC exposure has been linked to common feminine health products, hydraulic fracking operations, food packaging like pizza boxes, and common herbicides and pesticides.

Genetically-modified organisms are designed to withstand repeated spraying of the herbicide 2,4-D, a component of the toxic defoliant “Agent Orange,” which is linked to cancers of the immune system, Parkinson’s disease, endocrine disruption, and reproductive-health ailments.