Warning: Avoid ingesting chemicals that mimic hormones
August 17, 1996
Web posted at: 11:30 p.m. EDT
LONDON (CNN) -- Chemicals that can mimic human hormones are
turning up increasingly at the dinner table, and that could
mean trouble in the bedroom and the nursery.
The chemicals are thought to be contributing to a fall in
sperm count, a rise in testicular tumors and an increase in
undescended testicles and malformed genitals, said Dr. Vyvyan
Howard, a pathologist at the University of Liverpool.
"These are all thought to be associated with the rising
background levels of chemicals which can mimic the female sex
hormone estrogen," Howard said. People generally absorb the
chemicals through their diet, he said.
The group of chemicals can also affect fetuses even in very
low doses, he said.
Among the estrogen mimickers scientists are concerned about
are carbon chlorines, used in many pesticides; phthalates,
widely used in the plastics industry to soften PVC; and
dioxin, a byproduct of paper processing and herbicides.
Recent studies show sperm counts down by as much as half in
parts of Europe. The quality of sperm is also declining.
Scientists are calling for more urgent study to determine
whether problems are arising from specific chemicals or
general contamination, and what role lifestyle plays.
Uncontrolled chemical doses affect more than the human life
cycle, with some fish found to have both testes and ovaries,
said Gwynne Lyons of the Worldwide Fund for Nature.
Millions of tons of the affecting chemicals are manufactured
every year. Whatever controls are enacted now, experts
estimate it would take 100 years for them to revert to
Correspondent Margaret Lowrie contributed to this report.
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