Xenoestrogens are synthetic, environmental estrogens or compounds that mimic estrogen activities. They act by disrupting the regular hormone action without binding to the estrogen receptors. Xenoestrogens are thought to affect humans in multiple ways. Unnatural effects contributed to xenoestrogens include: decreased testosterone and lowered sperm counts in men; estrogen dominance, endometriosis, infertility and polycystic ovarian syndrome in women; increased risk of cancer in both men and women, and early puberty in children.
The sources of xenoestrogens are numerous and various. Although DDT (a pesticide) was banned in the U.S. in the 1970s, it continues to be sprayed on foreign produce that is then sold in U.S. stores. Beef and chicken are given estrogen and growth hormone to stimulate weight gain, egg production and milk production. Other legal pesticides and herbicides that are used in the air, water, and food contain xenoestrogens. Microwaving or storing food in foam containers, plastic wrap or plastic containers can transfer xenoestrogens into our food.
By now most have heard about the xenoestrogen bisphenol-A (BPA) and its deleterious effects on the endocrine system. BPA is an organic compound found in many plastics since the 1960s, and human exposure to BPA is thought to be ubiquitous. There is some debate about the quantity of exposure necessary to cause adverse effects. The EPA currently sets the human exposure limit as 50 mcg/kg/day, although there are numerous studies that suggest toxic levels occur at much lower doses. For example, a recent study found that oral administration of only 2 mcg/kg for 14 consecutive days to study rats reduced the sperm count as well as the serum levels of testosterone and FSH. This has significant implications when it comes to fertility. In addition to affecting fertility, BPA exposure contributes directly to metabolic syndrome and diabetes risk by disrupting the release of insulin from pancreatic beta cells.
These are all compelling reasons to keep ourselves, the men in our lives and our children away from BPA. The fact is that no one should be exposing themselves to this dangerous chemical. Common sources of exposure to BPA include hard, reusable, plastic water bottles or food containers (especially bad if food or beverages are heated in them), canned food liners, thermal receipts and soda and beer cans.
skip the receipts
eat fresh foods, organic and/or local if possible
enjoy that next frosty beverage from a nice cold glass bottle
do not microwave in plastic or Styrofoam
do not store food in plastic, especially high fat foods
replace plastic wraps/trays with wax paper or freezer paper
use glass baby bottles
buy free-range, hormone-free meat and dairy if possible
Vandenberg LN, Chahoud I, Heindell JJ et al. Urinary, circulating, and tissue biomonitoring studies indicate widespread exposure to bisphenol A. Cien Saude Colet. 2012 Feb; 17(2):407-34.
Integrated Risk Information System: Bisphenol A. (CASRN 80-05-7): Oral RfD Assessment: Bisphenol A; 1988 [cited May 10, 2013
Pengpeng J, Wang X, Chang F et al. Low dose bisphenol A impairs spermatogenesis by suppressing reproductive hormone production and promoting germ cell apoptosis in adult rats. J Biomed Res. 2013 March; 27(2): 135-144.
Jayashree S, Indumathi D, Akilavelli N et al. Effect of Bisphenol-A on insulin signal transduction and glucose oxidation in liver of adult male albino rat. Environ Toxicol Pharmacol. 2013 Mar, 35(2): 300-10. Mohan M, Tracey R, Guerrero-Bosagna C, Skinner MK. Plastics derived endocrine disruptors (BPA, DEHP and DBP) induce epigenetic transgenerational inheritance of obesity, reproductive disease and sperm epimutations. PLOS ONE 8(1): 1-16.
Nagel SC, Vom Saal FS, Thayer KA et al. Relative binding affinity-serum modified access (RBA-SMA) assay predicts the relative in vivo bioactivity of the xenoestrogens bisphenol A and octylphenol. Environ. Health Perspect. 1997;105(1):70-6
by Mary PreFontaine, RPh, FAAFM
Women’s Health Specialist @Keystone Pharmacy