How Pollution Affect Your Hormones

By  //  April 28, 2021

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In the rising awareness of global environmental pollution, researchers have come up with theories on how these pollutants are affecting the body.

The pollutants are present in our daily life, from the air we breathe into food packaging and even couches. 

Certain elements of pollutants in the body have been found to cause various hormonal imbalances, with the common cases being fertility and coping with stress.

To best understand the relationship between our hormones and the environment, scientists came up with environmental endocrinology. They study how prevailing environmental conditions impact the endocrine system of a living organism. Here are a few facts that the HRTGuru clinic specialist wants you to know how pollution affects your hormones.

Bisphenol A in Plastics is known to contribute hormonal changes

Bisphenol A is used in the manufacturing industry to harden plastic. Their application is widely used in the plastics and canned food industry. The chemical’s ability to look like and mimic the action of hormones is one thing that has scientists worried about. BPA is known to mimic the properties of estrogen, a sex hormone specifically.

BPA’S ability to mimic the sex hormone can lead to various medical conditions, with researchers linking it to conditions related to hormones such as male fertility and breast cancer. To reduce the chances of exposure to BPA, it is advisable to avoid canned food as well as eating food from microwaved plastic containers.

Air pollution can cause hormonal imbalance in both genders

Over the years, various researchers have conducted studies that have shown that air pollution is one of the leading contributors to hormonal imbalance. Air pollution contains various chemicals that have been proven to interfere with the normal functioning of the endocrine system. 

According to an International Journal of General Medicine, the chemical compounds have been known found to exist as either volatile or semi-volatile compounds attached to particulate matter or are in the gas phase.

These chemicals have been labeled as endocrine-disrupting chemicals, EDCs, linked to the irregular menstrual cycle in teenagers, fertility issues in females, and reduced sperm quality.

Air pollution is known to elevate stress hormones

As discussed before, hormones also play an important role in our stress response. An example is when the body produces adrenaline to help the body cope with a stressful situation. Increased air pollution has been known to increase the body’s ability to produce stress hormones. 

Research conducted in regions with high air pollution showed an increase in the residents’ metabolic stress. Increased production of adrenal-derived stress hormones has also been found to cause lung injuries or inflammation and metabolic effects to the adipose, muscle tissues, liver, and pancreas.

Lead pollution and hormonal disruption

Unlike in the 19th and 20th century where lead poisoning was rampant across developing nations, it is not easy to get exposed to lead in the modern day. This is because of increased regulations. A study found in the Journal of Endocrinological Investigation of 2009 showed that exposure to lead leads to its accumulation in every organ associated with the endocrine system.

Researchers have continued to conduct studies that have revealed that the presence of lead in the blood has a great influence on reproductive hormone levels in postmenopausal women and in young males in different ways. Long-term exposure to lead has formed the basis of these studies, with people who work around lead being highly susceptible to its poisonous effects.

Pesticides are also linked to hormonal issues

Pesticides also contain certain chemicals that can be considered pollutants. Research on pesticides containing organophosphate has revealed that the compound can be linked to thyroid-related issues. More research has also indicated that exposure to these pesticides can cause thyroid problems in pregnant women.

The effects of these pesticides have been found to be prominent in regions where there is wide use of these pesticides and specifically to people directly working with them. A 2010 study showed that flower farm workers exposed to these pesticides were likely to experience thyroid hormone issues, while another study in 2018 linked increased exposure to sperm production in the male population. 

Another study also showed that women married to farmers using these particular pesticides were like to suffer from thyroid diseases. To mitigate this, most people are encouraged to purchase organic produce.

Old toxic waste from the environment may still be causing health complications

Two classes of chemicals have been linked to hormonal issues, perfluorinated compounds (PFC) and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCB). Experts suggest that PCBs, which were previously widely used in the world, are no longer produced due to their inability to break down easily. 

This means they can accumulate in the environment for a very long time. However, PFCs are still in the market and are being used in the manufacture of non-stick kitchenware. Both of these chemicals have been linked to various hormone issues.

These chemicals have been linked to the problems affecting the production of steroid hormones such as testosterone, cortisol, and estrogen. A study published in 2002 also showed that PCBs were negatively affecting the thyroid. PFCs, on the other hand, has also been linked to thyroid hormone levels.

The best way to handle this growing concern is taking proactive measures such as looking for BPA-free plastic, choosing organic produce, and pushing leaders to lobby for legislative measures to control pollution.