Prenatal Origins of Endocrine Disruption
In the early 1990’s, it was revealed that the traditional toxicological testing protocols used to determine chemical safety had completely missed vast numbers of chemicals that penetrate the womb and interfere with the construction and programming of developing animals, including humans. Since that time, overwhelming evidence has accumulated indicating that the presence of infinitesimally small quantities of certain chemicals during the continuously changing stages of development before birth can alter one’s inherited phenotype, e.g., the ability to learn, to love, to bond, to process information, to reproduce, and even to maintain normal body weight. Because these chemicals interfere with development by disturbing the function of the endocrine system, they are called endocrine disruptors. The endocrine system is so finely tuned that it depends upon changes in hormones in concentrations as little as a tenth of a trillion of a gram to control the womb environment. That’s as inconspicuous as one second in 3,169 centuries.
Recent advances in research confirm that endocrine disruptors can interfere with the gene-controlled, normal signaling systems that determine every aspect of embryonic and fetal development. Over the past decade it has been demonstrated that there are endless ways endocrine disruptors can interfere with gene expression. They can interfere with how genes are programmed in the developing tissues of the unborn, thus changing how a teen or an adult would ordinarily respond to the normal chemical signals that control function as they mature. Disorders that have increased in prevalence in recent years such as abnormal male gonadal development, infertility, ADHD, autism, diabetes, thyroid disorders, and childhood and adult cancers are now being linked to fetal exposure. The increases in these disorders are also being reported in other northern hemisphere countries, constituting a problem of global proportion.
The costs of such disorders at the individual and family level can oftentimes be heart-rending and economically devastating; increasing numbers of individuals are spending their lives in a state of dependency. At the population level, the costs run into billions of dollars in lost income annually for one disorder alone. Endocrine disruptors have become an integral part of our economy and modern lifestyle, while at the same time are insidiously depleting the pool of healthy and intelligent individuals on a global scale.