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Updated: May 16, 2011 19:03 IST

Estrogen mimics

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Kannan Raveendran.
Kannan Raveendran.

Environment Kannan Raveendran, president, Palani Hills Conservation Council on the harmful effects of plastics on living things

The pervasiveness of chemicals that mimic the female hormone found in the environment is catching the attention of researchers in the west for more than a decade, but we in India are not aware of these.

The chemicals that mimic estrogen are to be found everywhere as they are part of most plastics, in the form of plasticisers (Pthalates) food additives like BHA, pesticides like DDT, solvents in pesticides like nonylphenol, and most cosmetics and fire retardants contain estrogen mimicking substances which are cumulative. Hence even at low concentrations they are dangerous in the long run.

The American Chemical Society [ACS] recently affirmed the following phenomena:

Sperm count in men worldwide has dropped to 50 per cent of what it was 50 years ago.

The incidence of testicular cancer has tripled in some countries in the last 50 years and prostate cancer has doubled.

Endometriosis — the growth outside the uterus of cells that normally line the uterus —which was “formerly a rare condition, now afflicts five million American women,” the ACS said.

In 1960, a woman's chance of developing breast cancer during her lifetime was one in 20. Today the chances are one in nine.

Female common terns (sea birds) are sharing nests near a PCB-contaminated site in New Bedford Harbor, Mass., an unnatural female-female pairing.

Young male alligators in pesticide-contaminated lakes in Florida are growing up with penises so small that they are “sexually incompetent.”

The rapid lowering of onset age of puberty in girls, perhaps is due to these ever present endocrine disruptors.

Due to wide use and mishandling of all of the above chemicals after use in India we may have more effects than in the West.

Keywords: plastic ban

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