Hormone-Disrupting Factors in Food, Air, Water

For those who choose to look beyond the confines of standard medical practice, it is becoming increasingly clear that many of today's illnesses are a result of toxic accumulation in our bodies, as has likely never occurred before in human history. Recent studies have shown that even mother's breast milk contains dangerously high amounts of poisons, taken into the body via the air, food, and water.

Whereas breast milk has been created by nature as the best and most perfect food for the new infant, our present chemical assault on the environment is forcing us to reconsider how we live, how we procreate, and how we die. Worldwide, fertility rates are declining, a testament to this hormonal disruption.

Our bio-hormones are extremely potent, operating at concentrations so low that they can be measured only with the most sensitive analytical methods. For example, the estradiol (Estrogen) that many women take in efforts to balance their sex hormones is active in concentrations of parts per trillion, rather than parts per million, or even parts per billion. This degree of sensitivity is likely to transcend our mental comprehension.

Levels of chemical contamination that would not be considered toxic in a laboratory study are nevertheless sufficient to create hormonal disruption in an adult, and even more so in a child. En utero, these same low levels can cause severe and permanent damage, at very low concentrations, if the fetus is exposed to them at critical times of development.

Though easily disrupted by minute doses of toxic chemicals, these hormones are nonetheless crucial to who we are. In fact, their balance dictates how we mature.

You could become "fat, fuzzy, or frazzled" from exposure to synthetic chemicals at concentrations much lower than would likely be considered poisonous or toxic.

In addition to normal daily function, normal growth and development depends on getting just the right hormone message, in exactly the right amount, to just the right place - at the right time. In utero or growing children, missing the "cue", the right stimulus at the right time, can result in lifelong problems. Similarly, adding a foreign substance at specific times of growth can also have lifelong impact.

DES: A Notorious Example of the Synthetic Hormone Problem

DES was a pharmaceutical drug supplied years ago to over 5 million women, purportedly to prevent miscarriages. Developed in the 1930's and heavily promoted in the 1950's, DES was the first created synthetic estrogen, considered a miracle breakthrough. At that time, people thought many problems were due to lack of estrogen. DES was given in pregnancy to prevent miscarriage and premature birth, to suppress milk production after childbirth, to alleviate hot flashes after menopause, to treat acne, even as a morning-after contraceptive for young women. It was also used in livestock to fatten the animals. Yet, despite the high hopes it engendered, it was a terrible disaster.

Amazingly, it didn't directly harm the mothers who were given this drug. Instead, it affected their developing babies, leaving them with lifelong major problems. It ruined their chances for becoming pregnant, and caused rare cancers in millions of women. It wasn't until years later that the New England Journal of Medicine published a paper showing the correlation between mothers taking DES and daughters being adversely affected.

It now appears that DES-exposed women have a greater likelihood of developing auto-immune diseases, such as Hashimoto's Thyroiditis and Grave's Disease, as well as other rheumatoid problems. People with these illnesses commonly have problems with their weight, memory, or emotions. In other words, while some people with chemical exposure develop full-blown auto-immune diseases, others might have the "milder" version of simply being "fat, fuzzy, or frazzled".

It is very clear that the human body can mistake a human-made chemical for a hormone, disrupting normal hormone action.

This entire DES episode was a tragic and unintended chapter in our history. A recent book, "The Greatest Experiment Ever Performed on Women" by Barbara Seaman, sheds further light on a recurrent pattern of the medical and pharmaceutical industries, pushing lucrative estrogen preparations into women's bodies. Clearly evidence has shown that these estrogenic compounds can potentially cause harm for generations to come, disrupting the developing human, with consequences that may defy current diagnosis. We suggest, in addition, that some of the estrogen overuse is behind today's "fat, fuzzy & frazzled" epidemic.

Since we live in an environment increasingly filled with chemicals that interfere with our natural hormone function, it may be many years, or decades, before a fuller understanding of the impact of this chemical cascade can be reviewed. For now, we must be aware of potential harm, and act accordingly in our own best interests.

We therefore join the chorus of other scientists concerned about this environmental connection, recommending what is known as the "precautionary principle". This wise advice suggests that when an activity potentially raises the threat of harm to the health of humans or the environment, cautionary steps should be taken even if the cause and effect relationship has not yet been fully demonstrated.

It is becoming increasingly apparent that we are slowly being flooded by a massive wave of endocrine disruption. Some of the long-term effects of chemical exposures include infertility, predisposition to cancer,
and, most commonly, the symptoms of disordered metabolism.

We concur with ecologist Sandra Steingraber M.D. in her recent books of concern, that those individuals or industries involved in promoting potentially harmful activity should be held accountable for proving that their actions are not causing harm, rather than allowing the public to be exposed to possible danger. Industrial pollutants are the major offenders in many of these health issues. We therefore call for greater governmental oversight, with informed and democratic process, in ensuring that industry acts responsibly in the creation, research, and use of its products. In the meanwhile, however, we provide information to enable you to remain healthy!

This country is no exception to the alarming worldwide decrease in sperm counts and male impotency noted in recent years. (Consider the huge sales of Viagra as one indicator of this phenomenon). Global reports of striking deformities in sex organs and mating behaviors of birds, frogs, fish, and mammals have - until recently - confounded the scientists.

Our best researchers, with three decades of painstaking evaluation, are now reporting that many widely used synthetic chemicals, including insecticides, plasticizers, and electric components previously considered safe are actually causing devastating hormonal chaos. The striking increase in environmental hormone-disrupting chemicals parallels the striking rise in hormone-related illness in humans. We are in the midst of a hormonal epidemic; this could well be affecting you.

DDT: An "Accidental" Hormone

DES is merely the first synthetic estrogen marketed as a drug. Other synthetic estrogens have been discovered only after the fact, for they were first created to be insecticides! The most notorious example of this phenomenon is the now banned chemical DDT, lauded as a fantastic breakthrough, and certainly deadly on the insect population. In retrospect, it is curious that scientists could consider a chemical so deadly to insects to be harmless to humans.

Only years later was DDT was found to mimic the effect of estrogen in the body, first observed in laboratory tests of roosters exposed to DDT. The roosters became feminized, looking and acting like hens. Gradually, over decades, further experimentation confirmed this finding in humans as well. Eventually the substance was banned from use, but not before billions of tons of DDT were widely distributed in the environment. The concern is that DDT is a persistent chemical. Banning its use is very much like locking the barn door after the horse has run away.

Not only does every animal on the planet now show traces of DDT stored in its fat, but also the concentration in human mother's milk currently approaches levels toxic enough to suggest that the breast milk should not be fed to babies. A governing body reviewing breast milk might, in fact, deem it unfit for human consumption.

Today there are tens of thousands of chemicals in wide usage whose possible hormone-disrupting effects have not been evaluated.

PCB's: Considered Innocuous, proven otherwise

Another notorious example is PCB's (polychlorinated biphenyls). These were developed as insulation material in electrical equipment. It was not known at that time to what serious extent this rather innocuous chemical, also used as a flame retardant, had hormone-disrupting effects. It happens to be another extremely persistent chemical in the environment, and is now widely distributed throughout the ecosphere, in every state of the union, to the most distant deserts, and into polar regions. Just as with DDT, the supposedly innocuous PCB's have recently been found to exist in high levels in human breast milk.

What this might mean for you is that the amount of PCB's in your body right now could be enough to throw off your delicate hormonal balance. Once you know this, however, you can take corrective action to remedy this situation. For instance, if the PCB disruption in your body is reducing your thyroid function, you can counter that with some simple vitamin or herbal medicine to increase your thyroid hormone production.

The Dioxin Dilemma

Here's yet another example. In the realm of synthetic chemicals, dioxin is one of the most notorious. In contradistinction to previous chemicals we have discussed, dioxin was not created intentionally. It is an inadvertent byproduct; a contaminant created during the manufacture of other chemicals, like pesticides and wood preservatives, also occurring in the burning of plastics.

There are close to a hundred different variants in the dioxin chemical family, including those that contaminated the notorious "agent orange", used in the Viet Nam war as a defoliant.

Like DDT and PCB's, dioxin is a very persistent chemical in the environment. It is similarly fat-loving, accumulating in the adipose tissues of our bodies. Like DDT and PCB's, it has been detected virtually everywhere on the planet.

Perhaps of wider import than any of its other effects is the ability of dioxin to interfere with hormone levels in the body. In animal studies, rats given dioxin experienced decreased testosterone levels, and decrease in size of various sex organs. It appeared to affect sexual behavior in male "pups" born to mothers given dioxin, as well as showing a decrease in sperm count by as much as forty percent.

It appears that dioxin acts as a powerful and persistent hormone, capable of producing major changes at very low levels. Most intriguing is that these animal studies found significant effects at levels of dioxin that humans were regularly exposed to.

Fluoride: The 20th Century's Greatest Advance… or Mistake?

One of the most well meaning and honored scientific traditions in this country has been the addition of fluoride to municipal water supplies for the prevention of tooth decay. The outgoing Surgeon General of the U.S. at the turn of the millennium heralded this maneuver as one of the top ten health achievements of the 20th century.

However, like some of the above-mentioned substances previously thought to be innocuous, fluoride is beginning to show its true impact. This substance, touted as harmless, has been used by the medical profession in the past to slow down the activity of overactive thyroid glands. It is no longer used medically for this purpose since the development of better medicines, Propylthiouracil (PTU), and Methemazole (Tapazole). However, as a result of its ability to slow down thyroid function, fluoride has systemic effects as well.

Long before it was used to fluoridate drinking water, its industrial application was known to be hazardous to exposed workers, who are still required to adopt procedures for handling toxic chemicals, including wearing full protective suits, eye covers, gloves, and facial masks when in contact with fluoride. Its disposal has long been known to be hazardous to farm animals and crops, resulting in decreased plant growth and health hazards to exposed creatures.

The original research performed to prove the benefits of fluoride on teeth used naturally occurring sodium fluoride (NaF)on research animals. However, this is not what is being added to public water supplies today. Instead, what is being used to artificially fluoridate public waters is hydrofluosilicic acid, an industrial waste product of the fertilizer and aluminum industries.

With scientific evidence mounting against this practice, many more nations are rejecting it. Less than 5% of the world's population drinks artificially fluoridated water (most naturally occurring water has some sodium fluoride), and in Europe it is only 2%. A number of countries have banned fluoridation, including Japan, Denmark, Sweden, India, and Holland.

In our country, virtually all of the 1500 scientists, engineers, and lawyers of the EPA headquarters in Washington DC unanimously stood against fluoridation through their professional employees union (see letter in appendix/ environmental connection).

Once again, we see a substance previously considered innocuous causing problems for years to come. Since the initial response of authorities is often denial until the evidence mounts to the point of being overwhelmingly undeniable, we are recommending that you use water filtration systems, particularly reverse osmosis, whenever possible, and that you follow our instructions to further reduce fluoride exposures.

What Does This All Mean?

Examples from across the globe, in animals and humans, have pointed to a troubling trend. What appears to be hormonal disruption is affecting the fish, the birds, and the animals. It affects their behavior, not just their reproduction. Humans are not exempt from this phenomenon. Hormonal disruption, for us, can take many forms. In a small number of people, it can be a dramatic and lifelong difficulty. In a much larger number of people, however, it can be more subtle, causing difficulties with weight, mental focus, or mood.

If you are challenged by feeling fat, foggy, or frazzled, or by similar ongoing symptoms that have been hard to diagnose and treat, you can deal with this situation most effectively once you acknowledge the possibility of toxic exposure as a factor in your symptoms.

Some of the most common, ordinary, and frustrating daily life conditions have this silent epidemic of glandular disruption as their hidden cause.

  • If you have spent years with yo-yo dieting, where nothing seems to work for very long, this information may change your life.
  • If you have had memory or focus challenges, interfering with your ability to be effective, this book can help.
  • If your nerves are constantly on edge, making you jumpy, irritable, or anxious, perhaps unable to sleep well, we have some answers.
  • If you have been plagued by multiple discomforts, or even one uncomfortable perplexing symptom, it could be metabolic in origin.
  • If you feel like a shadow of your former self, and aren't sure why, this new diagnosis could be life altering.

This concept is so critical to understand that we must reiterate and encapsulate what we see as the key reason for such massive challenges with feeling fat, foggy, frazzled:

Synthetic chemicals have spread across every inch of the earth,even the most distant wilderness. They have become incorporated into every living creature. This invasion is wrecking the lives of vast numbers of people.

Once again, in this book we are not talking about cancer and birth defects, though they may also be related to these chemicals. Instead we are discussing earlier warning signals, symptoms that can appear minimal but which nonetheless can prevent you from living well. Ultimately, it can leave you feeling "fat, fuzzy, or frazzled". However, do not despair - just take action.

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The Canary Club is an educational advisory group with a team of medical advisors headed by Richard Shames, M.D.