Landmark UN report examines effects of human and wildlife exposure to hormone-disrupting chemicals

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Endocrine-Disrupting Chemicals can enter the environment through industrial and urban discharges, agricultural run-off and the burning and release of waste. Photo: UNEP

Many synthetic chemicals, untested for their disrupting effects on the hormone system, could have significant health implications.

That, according to the “State of the Science of Endocrine-Disrupting Chemicals”, a new report by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the World Health Organization (WHO).

The joint study calls for more research to understand fully the associations between endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs) — found in many household and industrial products — and specific diseases and disorders. The report notes that with more comprehensive assessments and better testing methods, potential disease risks could be reduced, with substantial savings to public health.

Shiela Logan is the Programme Officer at the UN Environment Programme.

“ The challenge of course is the number of new chemicals coming onto the market and are they being tested effectively for what effects they have, and the fact that there does appear to be evidence that people's cumulative burden to chemicals—the amount of total chemicals in the world, in the environment, is increasing —and that's why the look for new testing methods and new research to identify what additional exposures there are and what combined effects they might have.”

The UN study, which is the most comprehensive report on EDCs to date, highlights some associations between exposure to EDCs and health problems, including the potential for such chemicals to contribute to the development of non-descended testes in young males, breast cancer in women, prostate cancer in men, developmental effects on the nervous system in children, attention deficit/hyperactivity in children and thyroid cancer.

The report also raises similar concerns on the impact of EDCs on wildlife.

Donn Bobb, United Nations.

Duration: 1’38″

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