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We are starting to understand that a large number of non-communicable diseases have their origin during development and that environmental factors interact with our genetic background to increase susceptibility to a variety of diseases and disorders.”
State of the Science of Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals – 2012
Report by the IOMC, United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and WHO

Rising rates of many diseases, especially chronic ones, have been linked to environmental factors, including:

  • breast cancer, incidence rates are increasing in almost all industrialized countries, including Canada. Studies have highlighted the importance of environmental factors, including chemical exposures (1).

  • prostate cancer, many countries, including Canada, are experiencing dramatically increasing incidence rates (2). “Estrogen exposure during fetal life can profoundly alter the developmental trajectory of the gland, sensitizing it to hyperplasia and cancer later in life … environmental factors, including diet and chemical exposures, also contribute” (3).

  • testicular cancer, rates are steadily increasing, likely from early exposure to synthetic chemicals that mimic human hormones (4).

  • thyroid cancer, “Within the last two decades thyroid cancer has become the fastest rising neoplasm among women in North America … Females, children and young adults are particularly vulnerable” (5).

  • autism, dyslexia, ADHD and other neurobehavioral disorders, increased rates have been linked to exposure to endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs), especially during pregnancy and early childhood.In many countries, these types of disordersnow affect 5–10% of babies born; autism spectrum disorders now occur at a rate that approaches 1% (6).

  • asthma, “the prevalence of pediatric asthma has more than doubled over the past 20 years and is now the leading cause of child hospitalizations and school absenteeism…it is important to focus on understanding the contribution of environment to these chronic disease trends in humans.” (7).

  • Alzheimer’s disease, between 2000 and 2010, age-specific death rates from Alzheimer’s disease for the age group 65–74 years increased 6 percent, for the age group 75–84 years the increase was 32 percent, and for the age group 85 years and over the increase was 48 percent (8).Currently, nearly 50% of people over 85 years old suffer from some form of dementia. Studies have linked the increase of Alzheimer’s disease to environmental factors. For example, U.S. researchers say they have found a substantial link between increased levels of nitrates in the environment and in food and increased deaths from Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and Type 2 diabetes.(9, 10).

  • atherosclerosis and heart disease, studies have shown that chemicals in the environment, including air pollution, are a substantial risk factor for heart disease (11). For example, with every increase of 10 micrograms per cubic meter of air pollution the risk of cardiac death rises by 76%”(12).

  • obesity and diabetes, in adults EDC exposures have recently been linked with obesity, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and metabolic syndrome (13).

  • Parkinson’s disease, is the second most common neurodegenerative disease after Alzheimer’s disease. There is a lot of evidence that environmental factors interact with a genetic susceptibility to trigger the disease (10,14). For example, EU-funded research has found that Parkinson’s disease is associated with relatively low intensity exposure to pesticides (15).

  • thyroid disorders, linked in part to industrial chemicals and/or ionizing radiation (thought to be under-diagnosed and possibly as high as one in three Canadians)(16,17).

We need to be proactive in evaluating and regulating both new technologies and established business practices, such as:

  • nanotechnologies, which are producing particles small enough to cross the placental barrier, the blood/ brain barrier and to slip between and into cells of the body. Once released in the environment we don’t have filters fine enough to recapture them. What are the implications of this on babies in utero, on the health of growing children, on the health of the general population? We simply don’t know (18,19).

  • genetically modified (GM) foods. A 2012 study (20) showed that eating GM maize and low doses of the Roundup pesticide with which it is grown damaged the health of rats over the long term.The treated rats suffered more severe kidney and liver damage, and higher rates of tumours and premature death, than controls. This was the first long-term study on the commercialized GM maize NK603* and its associated pesticide. Despite the fact that GM products have been in Canadian grocery stores for about 16 years, it was also the most detailed study on any GM food.

  • the ongoing use of chemicals even after they have been labeled “toxic,” if its producer can demonstrate either “economic reasons” for its continued use, or that controlling it will “create a stigma.” Bisphenol-A, for example, was banned by Health Canada from being used in baby bottles and other products for infants, but is still used in food packaging like soup can linings.

  • 50% of all antibiotics are used in farming, which has led to a rise in “superbugs” in humans – resistant infections that are difficult or impossible to treat (21).

*GM maize NK603 was approved in Canada in 2001 and is grown for animal feed and processed food ingredients.

(1) State of the Science of Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals – 2012, Report by the IOMC, United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and WHO:126.
(2) Ibid:130. (3) Ibid: 130,199.
(4) Ibid:131.
(5) Ibid:131
(6) State of the Science of Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals – 2012 – Summary for Decision-Makers, Report by the IOMC, United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and WHO:9
(7) Ibid
(8) Betzaida Tejada-Vera, M.S., Mortality From Alzheimer’s Disease in the United States: Data for 2000 and 2010. NCHS Data Brief, No. 116, 03-2013.
(9) State of the Science of Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals – 2012 – Summary for Decision-Makers, Report by the IOMC, United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and WHO:13.
(10) De la Monte, Suzanne M., Alexander Neusner, Jennifer Chu and Margot Lawton. Epidemilogical Trends Strongly Suggest Exposures as Etiologic Agents in the Pathogenesis of Sporadic Alzheimer’s Disease, Diabetes Mellitus, and Non-Alcoholic Steatohepatitis. Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease. 2009; 17(3): 519-529.
(11) State of the Science of Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals – 2012, Report by the IOMC, United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and WHO: 98.
(12) Miller KA, Siscovick DS et al. Long-term exposure to air pollution and incidence of cardiovascular events in women, NEJM. 2007; 356(5):447-458: 456.
(13) State of the Science of Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals – 2012 – Summary for Decision-Makers, Report by the IOMC, United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and WHO:9.Ibid:8.
(14) Ibid:13.
(15) Environmental Risk Factors For Parkinson’s Disease, Science for Environment Policy, DG Environment News Alert Service, 21-06-2007.
(16) The Thyroid Foundation of Canada; accessed on 15-04-2013 from http://www.thyroid.ca/thyroid_disease.php.
(17) State of the Science of Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals – 2012, Report by the IOMC, United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and WHO:91-98
(18) Schneider, Andrew. Amid Nanotech’s Dazzling Promise Health Risks Grow, AolNews, 24-02-2010; accessed on 16-04-2013 from http://www.aolnews.com/2010/03/24/amid-nanotechs-dazzling-promise-health-risks-grow/.
(19) A Tiny Little Primer on Nano-Scale Technology and the Little BANG Theory, ETC Group Report, 06-2009; accessed on 15-04-2013 from http://www.etcgroup.org/content/tiny-little-primer-nano-scale-technology-and-little-bang-theory.
(20) Séralini GE, Clair E, Mesnage R, Gress S, Defarge N, Malatesta M, et al. Long term toxicity of a Roundup herbicide and a Roundup-tolerant genetically modified maize. Food Chem Toxicol, 11-2012;50(11):4221-31.

(21) National Antimicrobial Resistance Monitoring System Retail Meat Annual Report, 2010, U.S. Food and Drug Administration; accessed on 16-04-2013 at http://www.fda.gov/AnimalVeterinary/SafetyHealth/AntimicrobialResistance/NationalAntimicrobialResistanceMonitoringSystem/ucm293578.htm.


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