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Alarming Report Links Hormone-Disrupting Chemicals to Autism, ADHD, lower IQ and Obesity

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Chemicals found in everyday household items such as furniture, rugs and plastic are causing lower IQ, autism, ADHD and obesity, and costing billions of dollars in healthcare expenses, according to a report published last week.

Endocrine-disrupting chemicals are found in many common household products, including plastic food containers.
Photo credit: Shutterstock

The study, which was accepted for publication in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism and posted on the journal’s website, found a highly probable association between endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs) and a spate of health burdens and diseases, including lower IQ, autism, attention deficient disorder, infertility and death, among people in Europe. The researchers used statistical analysis to assess the healthcare burden of these conditions among the European population, and concluded that EDCs are likely responsible for some 150 million Euros, or 200 billion dollars, in healthcare expenses.

“The shocking thing is that the major component of that cost is related to the loss of brain function in the next generation,” Dr. Philippe Grandjean, one of the study authors, told the UK Guardian.

“Our brains need particular hormones to develop normally—the thyroid hormone and sex hormones like testosterone and oestrogen. They’re very important in pregnancy and a child can very well be mentally retarded because of a lack of iodine and the thyroid hormone caused by chemical exposure.”

The study authors explain that similar links found between mercury, lead and disease led to stricter regulations about the use of mercury and lead in everyday products like paint and vaccines a decade ago. The same association needs to be made between EDCs and illness now so that harsher restrictions limit the use of these chemicals.

“EDC exposures in the EU are likely to contribute substantially to disease and dysfunction across the life course with costs in the hundreds of billions per year,” the team of scientists concluded in their report. "Thus, regulatory action to limit exposure to the most widely prevalent and potentially hazardous EDCs is likely to produce substantial economic benefits. These economic benefits should inform decision-making on measures to protect public health.”

The authors call on The World Health Organization and United Nations Environment Programme to initiate the reforms that I needed to limit the use of EDCs.

The research team was led by Dr. LR Trasande at the New York University School of Medicine, and included 12 experts in the area of EDCs at universities in both the U.S. and Europe.  They looked at three factors that revealed links between EDC exposure and illness:

  1. trends in the incidence and prevalence of diseases likely not caused by genetics;
  2. information from genetic studies with similar associations; and
  3. published scientific reports on diseases that measured how certain amounts of EDCs effected the body. Then they compiled the data from 75 different studies to write their report.

EDCs are found in many common household products, including plastic food containers and toys, rugs and furniture, in addition to shower curtains, electrical wires and cosmetic products. The pesticides sprayed on conventional (non-organic) grains, fruits and vegetables also contain EDCs. Some terms for EDCs that you may see on product labels include phthalates and parabens. EDCs cause harm by disrupting and interfering with normal hormonal activity in the body.

Ways you can avoid EDCs: read product labels, purchase certified organic products, and ask manufactures of household items if they use EDCs in the making of their products.

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