The endocrine system is comprised of glands that produce hormones that manage bodily functions such as metabolism, growth and development, reproduction, and sleep. Components include the pituitary gland, thyroid gland, parathyroid glands, adrenal glands, the pancreas, testicles (in males), and ovaries (in females). While there may be a tendency to take the endocrine system for granted, it is vitally important to know and understand the possible health effects when hormones are compromised by toxic chemicals.
While hormones circulate throughout the body, individual varieties target specific organs and tissues. Organs such as the heart, kidney, liver, and gonads assist the endocrine system in doing its job. Hormone levels that are either above or below normal usually indicate a problem with the endocrine system. Diabetes, a condition where the body does not properly process glucose, is the most common endocrine disease in the United States. Thyroid disorders such as hypothyroidism and Hashimoto’s have also become a systemic problem, especially among women.
Our environment and modern lifestyle are filled with chemical substances (both natural and man-made) that are referred to as endocrine disruptors that have been linked to developmental, reproductive, neurological, and immune disorders in both humans and wildlife. What’s especially troubling about endocrine disruptors is that they vary in the hormonal changes that they can produce inside our body. For instance, some disruptors will increase the production of certain hormones, while others will decrease production. Other disruptors will mimic hormones or convert one hormone into a different type.
Some of the worse offenders include metal food cans which contain BPA (bisphenol A), plastic bottles, detergents, cosmetics, flame retardants, toys, and food. For the rest of this report, I shall focus the reader’s attention on pesticides – specifically, Roundup and its main ingredient known as glyphosate.
Brief History of Organophosphate Pesticides
The Environmental Working Group summarized the development of organophosphate pesticides in its 2013 report entitled, “Dirty Dozen Endocrine Disruptors: 12 Hormone-Altering Chemicals and How to Avoid Them.”
Neurotoxic organophosphate compounds that the Nazis produced in huge quantities for chemical warfare during World War II were luckily never used. After the war ended, American scientists used the same chemistry to develop a long line of pesticides that target the nervous systems of insects. Despite many studies linking organophosphate exposure to effects on brain development, behavior and fertility, they are still among the more common pesticides in use today. A few of the many ways that organophosphates can affect the human body include interfering with the way testosterone communicates with cells, lowering testosterone and altering thyroid hormone levels.
By now, most people have probably heard of the Roundup herbicide and its active ingredient known as glyphosate. While glyphosate is officially classified as a phosphanoglycine herbicide (rather than an organophosphate derivative), it is, nevertheless, a known endocrine disruptor that can have an adverse effect on human health and the environment.
For example, PubMed published an abstract of a 2009 study entitled, “Glyphosate-based herbicides are toxic and endocrine disruptors in human cell lines” which contained the following passage of concern:
Glyphosate-based herbicides are the most widely used across the world; they are commercialized in different formulations. Their residues are frequent pollutants in the environment. In addition, these herbicides are spread on most eaten transgenic plants, modified to tolerate high levels of these compounds in their cells. Up to 400 ppm of their residues are accepted in some feed…
We observed a human cell endocrine disruption from 0.5 ppm on the androgen receptor in MDA-MB453-kb2 cells for the most active formulation (R400), then from 2 ppm the transcriptional activities on both estrogen receptors were also inhibited on HepG2. Aromatase transcription and activity were disrupted from 10 ppm. Cytotoxic effects started at 10 ppm with Alamar Blue assay (the most sensitive), and DNA damages at 5 ppm.
In 2015 GM Watch published a report entitled “Roundup is an endocrine disruptor – new study” which confirmed the risk assessment of glyphosate mentioned in the 2009 study above.
The glyphosate-based herbicide Roundup is an endocrine (hormone) disruptor in adult male rats, a new study shows. The lowest dose tested of 10 mg/kg bw/d (bodyweight per day) was found to reduce levels of corticosterone, a steroid hormone produced in the adrenal glands. No other toxic effects were seen at that dose, so if endocrine disruption were not being specifically looked for, there would be no other signs that the dose was toxic.
Finally, in an article entitled, “Should You Detox Your Body From Glyphosate Weedkiller?,” Sandy Halliday cited a number of adverse effects that may result from glyphosate accumulation in the body, such as impaired detoxification, weight gain, liver and kidney disease, Alzheimer’s Disease, Parkinson’s Disease, and reproductive problems. As a way to enhance and support the detox process, the author recommended drinking plenty of pure water and eating sulfur-rich foods such as cruciferous vegetables, garlic, and onions.
Endocrine System: Facts, Functions and Diseases
By Kim Ann Zimmermann, Live Science Contributor
Mar 11, 2016
Dirty Dozen Endocrine Disruptors: 12 Hormone-Altering Chemicals and How to Avoid Them
Environmental Working Group
Oct 28, 2013
National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences
Glyphosate-based herbicides are toxic and endocrine disruptors in human cell lines
Gasnier C1, Dumont C, Benachour N, Clair E, Chagnon MC, Séralini GE.
Toxicology. 2009 Aug 21;262(3):184-91. doi: 10.1016/j.tox.2009.06.006. Epub 2009 Jun 17.
Roundup is an endocrine disruptor – new study
Published: 18 August 2015
Glyphosate: Gateway on Pesticide Hazards and Safe Pest Management
Should You Detox Your Body From Glyphosate Weedkiller?
Sandy Halliday | The Detox Specialist