Everyday chemicals linked to diseases, warns World Health Organisation
Published 20/02/2013 | 10:47
COMMON chemicals found in every home may be causing cancer, asthma, birth defects and reduced fertility, the World Health Organisation has warned.
In a landmark report, the WHO warned “synthetic chemicals” had “serious implications” for human health.
The global health watchdog suggested so-called “gender-bending” compounds found in toys, PVC flooring and even credit cards should be banned in order to protect future generations.
The study said that more research was needed to fully understand the links between endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) – found in many household and industrial products – and “specific diseases and disorders”.
It found links between exposure to EDCs and health issues such as testicular problems, breast, prostate and thyroid cancer, developmental effects on the nervous system in children and attention deficit hyperactivity in children.
The UN agency said the study, titled State of the Science of Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals, was the most “comprehensive” report on EDCs to date because it has evaluated several chemicals and related evidence rather than focusing on just one.
The report, published following more than two years of research, admitted it was “reasonable to suspect” substances called phthalates – often found in pesticides bisphenol A and other PCBs – harmed female fertility and increased childhood illnesses such as leukaemia.
It also flagged concerns of bisphenol A, a man-made compound found in a host of daily items such as tin cans and sunglasses, which is thought to interfere with the natural hormones that influence a person’s development and growth.
According to the WHO, there was “very strong evidence” in animals they can interfere with thyroid hormones, which could cause brain damage, decrease intelligence, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and autism.
In prostate cancer, “significant evidence” existed that suggested a link with agricultural pesticides, the team of international medical experts found. It also said wildlife was at risk.
“The diverse systems affected by endocrine-disrupting chemicals likely include all hormonal systems and range from those controlling development and function of reproductive organs to the tissues and organs regulating metabolism and satiety,” said the report.
“Effects on these systems can lead to obesity, infertility or reduced fertility, learning and memory difficulties, adult-onset diabetes or cardiovascular disease, as well as a variety of other diseases.”
The same report published a decade ago, found only “weak evidence” that the chemicals harmed human health.
“The latest science shows that communities across the globe are being exposed to EDCs, and their associated risks,” said Dr Maria Neira, WHO’s Director for Public Health and Environment.
“WHO will work with partners to establish research priorities to investigate links to EDCs and human health impacts in order to mitigate the risks.
“We all have a responsibility to protect future generations.”
The study reflected similar warnings from the European Environment Agency (EEA) last year, which warned items such as cosmetics and medicines containing EDCs could be harmful to humans.
- Andrew Hough, Telegraph.co.uk