Chemical mixtures that interfere with hormones, known as endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs), impact the body in many ways. Growth, development, reproduction, metabolism, psychological responses to stress, and even cancer can all be affected by EDCs. Exposure to EDCs can occur through air, water, food, and skin. With the growing environmental crisis and the rise of research confirming the health risks of EDCs, the risk of overexposure to these chemicals is on the rise
Where do EDCs come from?
EDCs come in a variety of forms. The most common sources of EDCs are a result of the byproducts of industrial chemicals leaching into groundwater and soil. Residues from produce treated with pesticides also contributes a great deal of EDCs to the environment. According to the United Nations Environment Programme “The chemical industry spans several market segments, of which basic organic and inorganic chemicals represent the largest share by volume and continue to grow.” This includes the production of pesticides, fertilizers, the rapidly increasing production of plastics as well as many other products.
How are EDCs Harmful?
EDCs have a wide range of effects. Though further research is needed to determine all the effects of EDCs on the body, several studies have linked EDCs to diseases like type 2 diabetes and cancer. Because EDCs have the ability to mimic hormones like estrogen and androgen, they can catalyze breast and prostate cancer growth as well as interfere with hormonal cancer therapy. Other classes of EDCs mimic sex hormones, in turn affecting reproductive health. Further, overexposure to EDCs in the early stages of pregnancy lead to low birth weight and disrupts sexual and immune development. Some EDCs have been found to cross the placenta and others can be transmitted through breast milk, leading to higher concentrations of EDCs in infants, putting them at risk for both abnormal development and increased chances of disease later in life.
The future of EDCs
Pesticides, food storage, building materials, electronics, personal care products, antibacterial soap, and many textiles are all sources of EDCs. However, life expectancy is on the rise, infant mortality is decreasing, and every year bold new steps are made to combat food insecurity. The increasingly universal accessibility to these products plays no small role in this progress. Though EDCs in of themselves are harmful, they are the byproduct of a lot of good much too substantial to disregard in attempts to eradicate them. As the global economy moves towards greater accessibility to amenities that increase quality of life, our responsibility is to ensure that the byproducts of such amenities do not overwhelm their positive impact. Through our research, we hope to utilize proteins to develop a method of removing EDCs from the environment. As technological advances continue to expand the global economy, rather than allow harmful byproducts to hinder progress, understanding their impacts and devising ways to combat them allows us to fully celebrate the benefits of increased accessibility.
Peace Nyeche Class of 2021