Hormone Disorders and the Environment
Chemicals in the environment may have the ability to affect the body’s endocrine (hormone) system. These chemicals are known as endocrine disruptors. In the body, endocrine disruptors may mimic naturally occurring hormones. In response, the body may overproduce or under-produce other hormones, which can cause health problems. Some of the endocrine disrupting chemicals found in the environment include certain pesticides, such as organochlorine pesticides (OCPs), and industrial chemicals, such as perchlorate, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), and perfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS).
The thyroid gland uses iodine from food to make two hormones, thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3). Thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) is produced by the pituitary gland and it controls how much T3 and T4 the thyroid makes. Endocrine disruptors in the environment may affect a person’s levels of T3, T4, and TSH.
The effects of chemical exposure on the amount of thyroid disruption depend on certain factors that include the timing of exposure, the populations at risk, and other factors. For example, pregnant women and their fetuses would be most affected by thyroid disruption, because thyroid hormones are vital for the developing brain. More research is needed on environmental chemicals and their effect on thyroid disorders.Top of Page