Boys, watch out for pollutants!

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The effects of chemical pollutants are not new to us, but why is this blog post warning boys? Let’s find out.

DSC_0054Every chemical has its unique sets of effects on mammals. The one that disturbs the reproductive system or the hormone system are called endocrine disruptors. Chemicals like phthalates or parabens are examples of such chemicals. Parabens are used as preservatives in cosmetics, pharmaceutical drugs, food and beverages. Due to consumer awareness a lot of cosmetic brands are now producing paraben-free products. Phthalates on the other hand are used as platicizers, stuff that makes a plastic better in various aspects. Not to mention how plastic has become an integral part of our world.

All is not bad:

A discovery of was made by Charles Brenton Huggins in the year 1960. He showed that cancer could be controlled by chemicals, for which he was awarded the 1966 Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine. This is how anti-androgens were made use of as a treatment for cancer. As you can see, as any other chemical, the dose determines the effects of a chemical on the environment in which it exists. Also, such chemicals also exist in nature, which are naturally occurring anti-cancer medicines. What these synthetic chemicals are doing is increase our chances to acquire diseases as we are more exposed to it.

Human endocrine system:

Endocrinology is the branch of biology and medicines that studies the endocrine system. Hormones are biochemicals that regulate it. There are various kinds of them. The three main categories of human hormones are:

  1. Eicosanoid
  2. Peptide
  3. Steroid

Steroid hormones take care of the development of sexual characteristics  among many other bodily functions. They can further be classified according to the receptors they bind to:

  1. glucocorticoids
  2. mineralocorticoids
  3. androgens
  4. estrogens
  5. progestogens

Estrogens and Progestogens affect female sexual determination while Androgens affect male sexual determination. The other two carry out other bodily functions that we are not concerned about in this topic. Have a look at this video to learn about the endocrine system.

What’s with the blog headline? Why only boys?

Endocrine disruptors affect the reproductive system by fooling our body into believing that they are friendly hormones like the ones mentioned above. Deceptive little things. This is not it though. What’s more frightening is that males are just not becoming more female, they are disappearing! These chemicals are alluding an evolutionary threat to male species: be it a human or an animal. Lower male birth rates have been observed since years now. To know more about how this is happening, check out this documentary:

 

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4 thoughts on “Boys, watch out for pollutants!

  1. Thank you for raising awareness. It is a very informative post.
    Some/many people in Western countries like the “new car smell” even though a part of it are plasticizers!
    What alternatives are there? Are there compounds that are hydrophobic enough to be plasticizers, have a high enough molecular weight to have a very low vapor pressure, and contain ester linkages making them fast biodegradable once they entered an organism?

    Let’s do a literature search and think about possible structures. :-) 

    1. Thank you, Dirk. That’s a good point. Upon thinking, I also thought of naturally occurring endocrine disruptors and I wondered if we could ever tell a difference between them and the synthetic ones. Also, is there a chance that one may acquire reproductive diseases from them? For example, can too much onion intake cause cancer?

      Here’s something I found while I searched for an answer:
      ‘Endocrine Disrupters’ in Plants are called Phytoestrogens and yes it can cause fertility problems in humans as well as animals.
      http://extoxnet.orst.edu/faqs/natural/phytox.htm

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