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Year : 2022  |  Volume : 7  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 1-2

Endocrine disruptors: A rising menace

Department of Endocrinology, PGIMER, Chandigarh, India

Date of Submission15-Mar-2022
Date of Acceptance15-Mar-2022
Date of Web Publication31-Mar-2022

Correspondence Address:
Dr. Sanjay Kumar Bhadada
Room No. 8, NHE Block, PGIMER, Chandigarh
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/jncd.jncd_20_22

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How to cite this article:
Malhotra B, Bhadada SK. Endocrine disruptors: A rising menace. Int J Non-Commun Dis 2022;7:1-2

How to cite this URL:
Malhotra B, Bhadada SK. Endocrine disruptors: A rising menace. Int J Non-Commun Dis [serial online] 2022 [cited 2023 Mar 31];7:1-2. Available from: https://www.ijncd.org/text.asp?2022/7/1/1/342080

The modern era is marked by industrialization and excessive use of synthetic chemicals. This exponential increase in the generation of chemicals has been paralleled by an alarming rise in metabolic diseases such as obesity, diabetes, neurobehavioral disorders, and disorders of reproduction and hormone responsive cancers. While sedentary lifestyle, stress, sleep deprivation, and unhealthy eating habits may explain this co-existence, the same may be attributed to the adverse effect of these chemicals on human biology. From the environment, these chemicals leach and enter the food chain. Further, they can directly enter human body by ingestion, inhalation, or skin contact as they form an essential component of products of daily use such as personal care products, water bottles, and food additives. Some commonly used ones are polychlorinated biphenyls, polybrominated biphenyls and dioxins, bisphenol A (plastics), phthalates (plasticizers), and methoxychlor, chlorpyrifos, and dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (pesticides). Together, they are called endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs) as they exert their hazardous effects by interacting with hormone signaling pathways – both by receptor-dependent and -independent manner. Some of them are highly lipophilic, accumulate in the adipose tissue, and undergo biomagnification, hence known as “persistent organic pollutants.”

The emerging evidence of the causative role of these EDCs in the pathogenesis of metabolic diseases, neoplasia, aging, and neurodegenerative disorders of adulthood comes from animal studies, with clinical studies merely showing an association. There is little knowledge about the pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics of these chemicals in vivo. Further, there are no data showing how exposure to mixtures of virtually hundreds of EDCs at low concentrations will affect human health. The usual safe limits of exposure in human biological samples have also not been defined. The levels declared safe for humans or wildlife are extrapolated from the no-observed-adverse-effect level (which is divided by a so-called safety or uncertainty factor) and are not actually tested, nor are the mixtures. Studies also assume that there is a threshold for EDC effects and that there will be no effects at low doses, but EDCs tend to have nonmonotonic dose–response curves. Risk assessment approaches do not always assess toxicity during development, which is the most sensitive window for EDC action, and also do not follow the animals for their lifetime, which is needed to assess resulting diseases.

Day in and day out, new chemicals are synthesized without the knowledge of their toxicologic properties. Given the ubiquitous presence of these chemicals, the magnitude of the menace seems huge. Nevertheless, a concerted effort at both public and legislative level can make a difference. Plastic use may be curtailed by storing food in glass, stainless steel, or porcelain whenever possible, replacing plastic bags with cotton, bamboo, hemp, jute, paper, or starch bags that are biodegradable and nontoxic and making toys out of clay. As the EDCs have also been found in drinking water, use of water filters may be advocated. Washing fruits and vegetables before consuming, choosing foods grown and raised locally, and eating a freshly cooked meal over preprocessed food packed in plasticizers can be done. Since adipose tissue bioaccumulates the EDCs, meat and fish may be cooked after trimming fat and then allowing it to drain on a rack. Pretreatment of industrial effluents, availing public transportation options, and switching to organic farming can help reduce environmental pollution. Antagonizing the harmful effects of these EDCs on biological systems is yet another line of defense against these chemicals. Since the pathogenic pathways include gut dysbiosis, chronic inflammation, and oxidative stress, manipulation of gut microbiota through probiotics and prebiotics may mitigate their hazardous effects. Intake of a healthy diet rich in antioxidants and micronutrients should be encouraged.

Strengthening the scientific research on the pathophysiology of EDCs and exploring the unknown effects on biology are the need of the hour. This ongoing research will guide the framing of policies and regulations regarding manufacture, use, and disposal of EDCs, especially in developing countries where no strict legislation exists. This will also create awareness in the public about the detrimental effects of these chemicals. The challenge is real, but an effort at a personal, research, and legislative level can make a difference.


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