Meaning of environmental estrogen
Environmental estrogen is the naturally or synthetically produced estrogen by other organisms in the environment. It is structurally different from the estrogen produced by the endocrine system of the body. However, when ingested by humans, it imitates the functions of estrogens in the body. In females, the onset of puberty is due to increase in the secretion of gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH), which stimulates the anterior pituitary to release the luteinizing hormone and follicle-stimulating hormone to the ovaries. The FSH stimulates the ovaries to release estrogen in estradiol, which helps in the development of the body. A few of critical functions are breast development, fat distribution, and skeletal muscle growth.
The ingestion of environmental estrogen in the body is hazardous to the growth of the body. If a healthy person consumes xenoestrogen, it may hamper the endocrine releasing hormone stimulation and cause pubertal changes before the person hits puberty. If the amount of xenoestrogen increases in the body, the natural estrogen production may decrease and many health hazards, such as difficulty in binding, cellular response, synthesis, metabolism, etc. may occur. Xenoestrogens may be found in plastic bags with packaged food, drink trays, containers, etc.
Effects of Environmental Estrogen
Xenoestrogens work as false messengers and carry out the functions in the target organs that were supposed to be carried by the endocrine system’s natural estrogen. Sometimes, this may cause unusual thickening of the uterus wall, which is called endometriosis. Endometriosis occurs naturally during a menstrual cycle or pregnancy, but the ingestion of xenoestrogens sudden changes take place in the uterus walls.
Another primary concern is that most xenoestrogens are released by the industrial and agricultural wastes into the streams and they become a pollutant that affects the aquatic life in the water body. The xenoestrogen level increases from each trophic level in the ecosystem, which is called biomagnification and it enhances the toxicity of xenoestrogen. Xenoestrogens have also impacted the sexual organ systems of many fishes that have led to altered sex ratios and changes in female fishes’ reproductive cycles.
Common Examples of Environmental estrogen
Atrazine: Atrazine is the second most selling pesticide globally and the most heavily used pesticide in the United States. It is used in Christmas trees, golf courses, lawns, etc.
Dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDT): It is one of the most hazardous pesticides used in the early years. However, the United States banned the use of DDT as a pesticide in 1972 due to its dangerous effects on the environment.
Phthalates: They are also called plasticizers and known to add flexibility and durability to polyvinyl chloride products. High molecular phthalates are used in medical devices such as intravenous bags, and low molecular phthalates are used in perfumes and lotions.
Dioxin: It is a highly toxic chemical that is formed by the process of combustion and chlorine bleaching. The pulp and paper mills industry releases it into the streams. The primary route of entry of dioxin to the human body is by consumption of animal fats.
Endosulfan: It acts as an insecticide in many vegetables, cereal grains, and fruits. Human exposure is through groundwater, plant consumption, or surface water contamination.
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