Environmental Estrogens

Published: 2021-07-07 22:15:05
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Lindsay Whittaker Biology 111 April 15, 2009 Environmental Estrogens We eat and are exposed to these deadly products every day. They are in the foods we eat and in our environment. These substances have been known to cause disease, cancers and different birth defects. What is this you ask? This synthetic substance can be found in the environment and when absorbed into a person’s system, may function in a similar wary to estrogen, the generic term for female sex hormones (Environmental hormones and environmental estrogen 1998). These deadly chemicals are environmental estrogens. Environmental estrogens can be emitted from pollution, fertilizers, and many synthetic substances which are used by humans. Examples of these sources are pesticides such as DDT, endosulfan, dieldrin, methoxychlor, kepone, dicofol, toxaphene, and chordane, and pharmaceuticals such as drug estrogens and birth control pills. Over the last ten years, scientists and researchers have become very concerned about what environmental estrogens do to wildlife and human populations. There have been approximately 50 environmental estrogens defined by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the National Institute of Health (NIH). Environmental estrogens are harmful for the environment and to humans alike. Wildlife, along with the human population is affected by environmental estrogens. Fish are affected by estrogens contained in DDT, a frequently used pesticide, and PCB’s, Polychlorinated Biphenyls. Scientific studies conducted on small animals such as frogs, produced bizarre defects such as additional extremities and the absence of eyes. (Cody 1998). Some species of frogs have also been noted to be becoming extinct because of these harmful chemicals filling the environment. A large amount of environmental estrogens exist in some of our nation’s rivers and lakes. The environmental estrogens are ingested by fish and other sea life. For example, in the Delaware River areas, fish consumption advisories have been issued to residents warning them about the high PCB’s found in the Delaware River fish (Cody 1998). According to the Minneapolis Star Tribune, reported that male walleye fish from the Mississippi river have shown high levels of estrogen and low levels of testosterone (Cody 1998). Females also showed almost five times as much estrogen than normal levels (Cody 1998). In Arizona, environmental estrogens have also been found in local river fish. The Arizona Daily Star reported that fish from the Gila River, in Phoenix, have almost 24 parts per million of DDF, a breakdown of DDT (Cody 1998). Away from fish hazards, other animals are suffering due to these debilitating chemicals in our environment. In Florida, alligators have shown a sharp decrease in hatchlings in Lake Griffin (Cody 1998). Local alligator farmers were puzzled at this sharp decrease in hatchlings mainly because in previous years, almost 50% of eggs hatched, and now only 4. % were hatching (Cody 1998). In the mammal spectrum of affected animals, Polar bears in the North Pole have been found with both female and male genitals due to the PCB’s in their diet of fish (Cody 1998). On the human side of the spectrum, many factors act with estrogens to harm human health substantially. Along with disrupting human reproductive systems, environmental estrogens can also cause some cancers and other disorders. Environmental estrogens are also known to act at very low concentrations (Environmental Estrogens Act at Very Low Concentrations [updated in 2004]). They can cause major changes in endocrine organs and disrupting the nervous system and chemical messengers. In women, environmental estrogens have caused breast cancer and in men, a low sperm count (Environmental hormones and environmental estrogen 1998). Endometriosis is a common disorder which is now thought to be caused by environmental estrogens. This disease, experienced by women commonly disrupts the fertility process by attacking the reproductive organs. Breast cancer is another disease in women that environmental estrogens are thought to play a part in. Like many diseases, the frequency of breast cancer has increase dramatically since the 1950’s. In males, a reduction in the amount of sperm produced is thought to be a result of exposure to these chemicals as well. Also, testicular cancer in males has increased. A new discovery also revealed that additives such as preservatives, coloring and flavorings added to food may also alter hormones. Although there is no clear way to avoid the ingestion of these harmful substances, some precautions can be taken as well. Avoid the use of pesticides near your home and be conscious of what ingredients you are using in meals. Scientists are working on plans and solutions to this widespread growing problem. Hopefully soon, a solution can be formulated in order to keep our earth healthy and alive for much longer. Environmental estrogens are everywhere in the atmosphere. The damage these dangerous environmental estrogens are causing to the reproductive systems of wildlife and humans, alike, the cycle of life in all species appears to be threatened. In this age of conservation and rescue of our planet, it seems that scientists and environmentalists should already be working together to create less harmful chemicals used in pesticides and other compounds containing these synthetic estrogens. Because environmental estrogens increase risks of cancers and other harmful reproductive disorders, more people are becoming susceptible to these harmful diseases. If nothing is done to lessen the risk of using these pesticides and other harmful products, human and animal populations may decrease and soon there maybe no one or nothing inhabiting the planet at all.

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