The ABC of EDCs
What are EDCs?
Endocrine disruptors, also called gender benders, can be natural or man-made substances, and interfere with the normal functioning of the endocrine system in three ways:
a) By mimicking the action of a naturally-produced hormone;
b) By blocking the receptors in cells receiving the hormones; and
c) By affecting the synthesis, transport, metabolism and excretion of hormones.
Which chemicals are EDCs?
There are over 80 000 chemicals registered for commercial use today, and it is unclear exactly how many are potential EDCs. However, a certain number of endocrine disrupters have been identified. Suspected EDCs can be found in pesticides, fertilisers, pharmaceuticals, personal care products, and industrial substances.
Why is it so difficult to prove the effect of EDCs on people?
Firstly, everyone is exposed to EDCs at one time or another. We encounter a broad range of environmental exposures throughout our lives to a mixture of chemicals through the water we drink, the food we eat, the air we breathe and through contact with our skin. This makes it difficult to pin-point exactly which chemicals at what dosages are harmful.
Secondly, EDCs have transgenerational capabilities. This means they do not only affect the people presently exposed to them, but could possibly elicit secondary effects up to a second or third generation.
Who is most at risk of the potential affects of EDCs?
It is believed that the earliest stages of life (i.e. embryonic stage) are the most sensitive to endocrine disruption. However, the health effects due to prenatal exposure may not present themselves until later in life.
Are there any EDCs in my drinking water?
Initial studies indicate that conventional water treatment technologies remove virtually all EDCs.
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