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Human hormones, chemicals a bad mix

"I think everyone is a little stunned that we have all these chemicals in the environment that have the potential to cause harm," said Deborah Swackhamer, an environmental health professor at the University of Minnesota. "Hormones at very small doses regulate just about everything, and if you've got chemicals that can mimic that, they can mess with growth, behavior and development."

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Full Article from Star Tribune website:

Research about everyday chemicals that may harm human health is piling up. Some people say government regulators have handled the situation irresponsibly. Others say more study is needed.

By SARAH MORAN, Special to the Star Tribune

First organic food -- free of pesticides -- had the spotlight. Then consumers learned about buying cosmetics without parabens. Just last month Minnesota banned the chemical Bisphenol-A (BPA) from baby bottles and sippy cups.

The mounting health cautions might seem tedious -- does every little thing cause cancer? -- but a common thread weaves through the concerns. Numerous everyday products are made with chemicals that may disrupt people's endocrine system, which is also known as the hormone system.

A quick primer: The endocrine system is responsible for brain and nervous system development, reproduction, metabolism and blood sugar. Hormones, including estrogen and testosterone, are like messengers moving through the body, telling receptors on cells what to do.

The problem is that many chemicals -- called endocrine disruptors -- mimic hormones. They attach to receptors and cause cell division, altered gene expression and other harmful changes.

Chemicals enter the body and environment in many ways. Ingredients in lotion and lipstick seep into the skin and bloodstream. Pesticides, food additives and chemicals in packaging make their way in when people eat. Weedkillers and fertilizer sprayed on lawns end up in waterways.

Endocrine disruptors have been blamed for playing a role in attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), autism, cancer, diabetes, earlier puberty, immune problems, obesity and infertility.

"I think everyone is a little stunned that we have all these chemicals in the environment that have the potential to cause harm," said Deborah Swackhamer, an environmental health professor at the University of Minnesota. "Hormones at very small doses regulate just about everything, and if you've got chemicals that can mimic that, they can mess with growth, behavior and development."

Hubert H. Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs
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