Wednesday, August 5, 2009
In 1962 Rachel Carson’s book Silent Spring was published, creating an outcry that forced the banning of DDT. Since then there has been growing concern that chemicals in the environment might exert profound and disasterous effects on wildlife populations, and that human health is inextricably linked to the health of the environment.
Although researchers had studied the endocrine effects of chemicals for some time, the term endocrine disruptor was coined in 1991 by Theo Colborn at a conference at the Wingspread Conference Center in Racine, Wisconsin. Theo Colborn is co-author of Our Stolen Future, published in 1996. Her extensive research and that of many others firmly establishes that environmental chemicals disrupt the development of the endocrine system, and that effects of exposure during development are permanent.
Although hormone disruption isn’t new, the growing incident of it that we are experiencing today is such that we must consider it a modern-day epidemic. In her book Hormone Deception, D. Lindsey Berkson takes up where Theo Colborn left off by extending the evidence into the realm of human health. If this subject concerns you as much as it concerns me, I would highly recommend that you purchase Dr. Berkson’s book.
So what are endocrine disruptors anyway? According to Wikipedia this term refers to exogenous substances (coming from outside the body) that act like hormones in the endocrine system and disrupt the physiologic function of endogenous hormones (inside the body).
Simply put, our cells have receptor sites which allow hormones to attach to the cell. When we are exposed to environmental chemicals (that mimic hormones) the receptor site doesn’t know if it is the real hormone or an imposter. So, these imposters are reeking havoc with our cells and thus with our overall health.
As Dr. Berkson says in her book “All this points to what can go awry. If something is wrong with the signal, the body will respond to the wrong message. In other words, an unnatural signal may create an inappropriate response. What science is discovering is that hormone disruptors can bind with receptors and send messages the same way our natural hormones can. But these particular messages can significantly alter normal cell function and growth.” [Hormone Deception, pg.13]
Next time: Endocrine Disruptors: Where do they come from and how do they affect us?