They can be found in cosmetics, plastic containers, towels, and baby bottles. Throughout our daily lives, endocrine disruptors, molecules that disrupt our hormones, are limited. However, these harmful effects on human health are not known to the public. A growing number of studies have shown that exposure to these environmental contaminants during pregnancy can cause long-term health difficulties for both the mother and the foe.
Using a comprehensive investigation of the literature on over a dozen of the most common endocrine disruptors (EDs), as well as several of their effects, they found substances that have been shown to affect the reproductive system, metabolism, and mammary gland development during pregnancy. Their findings are revealed in an article published in April.
Specifically, the goal of the study was to show that during the pregnancy there is not only one person who is affected by endocrine disrupters, but two! We wanted to accentuate the co-sensitivity of the mother and her child to these environmental contaminants that exist everywhere, according to Professor Isabelle Plante, the lead author of the study and researcher in environmental toxicology at INRS. She is also co-director of the Intersectoral Centre for Endocrine Disruptor Analysis (ICEDA).
Defeating the placentas defence barriers
Pregnancy is a complex process that involves significant physiological changes for the mother and the child. This period of life is regulated by various hormones and signalling pathways. It is therefore a window of opportunity that is particularly sensitive to external contaminants.
Researchers examined the role of the placenta in maternal physiology and fetal development during pregnancy. It produces hormones necessary for pregnancy. Depending on the time, a malfunctioning placenta may lead to health complications later in life, such as diabetes, obesity, and other serious illnesses.
Perinatal life, including pregnancy, is a significant development period because it is at this time that EDs are in place to be beneficial throughout the child''s life, and even the mother. Thus, the alteration of the placenta can have invisible consequences that will only be observed later in life, according to INRS Professor Cathy Vaillancourt, who is also a member of the ICEDA scientific committee and director of RISUQ.
Early maternal exposure to certain endocrine disruptors may also impact the development of mammary glands in unborn babies. This is the case for bisphenol A (BPA), which is found in several food-grade plastics, and diethylstilbestrol (DES), a synthetic estrogen that has been widely used in women for menopause therapy or to avoid pregnancy complications.
Exposure to endocrine disruptors may be linked to the risk of developing prostate cancer.
A lack of awareness
Many women believe they are aware of endocrine disruptors and their health problems, but few are adjusting their lifestyle, according to Plante. For example, some people stop wearing makeup during pregnancy, but continue to dye their hair or use lotions and creams on their bodies.
Thousands of molecules are suspected of interfering with hormone receptors or hormone production, but hundreds of thousands more have been identified. Researchers therefore targeted known molecules and others that are less well-known, such as those found in fracking water during oil exploration.
Professor Plante declares that pregnant women or women who want to have children are particularly vulnerable to endocrine disruptors. They must be aware of the consequences that these contaminants can have on their health, but also on their future children.