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Global surge in birth defects, cancer, and psychiatric illness blamed on man-made chemicals

Robin Wulffson MD's picture
birth defects, hormonal cancers, psychiatric illness, increase

The World Health Organization (WHO) has noted that a global surge in birth defects, hormonal cancers, and psychiatric illnesses has occurred. The organization claims that man-made chemicals in everyday products are likely to be at least partially responsible for the increase. WHO released its findings in a February 19 report: “State of the Science of Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals - 2012.”

The 28 page report, developed by a United Nations s-sponsored research team also notes that endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) could also be linked to a decline in the human male sperm count and female fertility, to an increase in once-rare childhood cancers, and to the disappearance of some animal species. The report noted: “It is clear that some of these chemical pollutants can affect the endocrinal (hormonal) system and ....may also interfere with the development processes of humans and wildlife species.”

The international group, academic experts working under the auspices of the United Nations environmental and health agencies UNEP and WHO, issued their findings in a report that updated a 2002 study on the potential dangers of synthetic chemicals. The authors noted that the situation was “a global threat that needs to be resolved.” It claimed that humans and animals across the planet were probably exposed to hundreds of these often little-studied or understood compounds at any one time. The investigators wrote: “We live in a world in which man-made chemicals have become part of everyday life.

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EDCs include phthalates, which have been used for decades in making plastics soft and flexible. Products made from them include toys, children’s dummies, perfumes, and pharmaceuticals. In addition, they are used in cosmetics such as deodorants that are absorbed into the body.
Another EDC is Bisphenol A, or BPA, which is used to harden plastics; it is found in food and beverage containers, including some babies’ bottles and the coating of food cans. A few nations, including the United States, Canada, and some European Union members, have already banned the use of some of them in certain products, especially those manufactured for use in children.
The report noted, however, “many hundreds of thousands” are in use around the world and only a small fraction had been assessed for their potential to induce disease by upsetting the endocrinal, or hormonal, systems of humans and animals. Experts are of the opinion that in general, such chemicals can be absorbed into drinks and food from the containers they come in.

The report noted that a major problem was that manufacturers of consumer products did not identify many of their chemical components. As a result, the investigators were only been able to look at “the tip of the iceberg”. Disease risk from the use of EDCs––or what could be even more dangerous a combination of them––“may be significantly underestimated.” The researchers noted that they had reviewed studies of the effect of the chemicals on humans and animals and found that a link to EDCs could be suspected in breast and prostate cancer, diabetes, infertility, asthma, obesity, strokes, and Alzheimer’s disease, and Parkinson’s disease. These studies suggested that babies exposed to EDCs in the womb or during puberty were especially vulnerable to developing these diseases in later life as well as behavioral and learning problems such as dyslexia . In many nations, these disorders affected 5-10% f infants born, while autism was now recorded at a rate of 1%. The report noted that childhood leukemia and brain cancer is also on the rise, according to the report. It noted, “All of these complex non-communicable diseases have both a genetic and an environmental component. Since the increases in incidence and prevalence cannot be due solely to genetics, it is important to focus on understanding the contribution of the environment to these chronic disease trends in humans.”

The researchers explained that their report had been based largely on studies in the developed world. However, the magnitude of the problem in developing nations had yet to be adequately assessed due to a lack of data from Africa, Asia, and Latin America.

Reference: World health Organization