This is what a team of researchers from the Institut national de la recherche Scientifique (INRS), Université TELUQ, and Queen’s University have shown by conducting a comprehensive review of the literature on more than a dozen disrupting substances most common endocrine (ED), as well as some of their lesser-known effects.
They focused on substances that have been shown to affect the reproductive system, metabolism and breast development during pregnancy.
“The idea is to show that, during pregnancy, not just one person is affected by endocrine disruptors, but two!,” Professor Isabelle Plante, lead author of the study and an environmental toxicologist at INRS. She is also co-director of the Interregional Center for Endocrine Disorders Analysis (ICEDA).
Defeat the protective barrier of the placenta
Pregnancy is a complex process that involves major psychophysiological changes for the mother and the child. This stage of life is regulated by various hormones and signaling pathways. This is therefore a window of opportunity that is particularly sensitive to disruption by external contaminants.
By synthesizing existing studies, researchers have highlighted the role of the placenta and its vulnerability to ED. Placenta is the organ that regulates maternal physiology and fetal development during pregnancy. It produces the hormones necessary for pregnancy.
Any change in its functioning affects the health of the mother and her baby in the short, medium and even long term. A malfunctioning placenta can lead to health complications later in life, such as diabetes, obesity, or other chronic diseases.
“Perinatal life, including pregnancy, is an important period of development because it is a time when mechanisms are in place to be useful throughout the life of the child and even the mother. Thus, ED-induced placental alterations may have invisible effects that we will only observe later in life,” INRS, Professor Cathy Vaillancourt, co-author of the paper, who specializes in the implications of environmental factors for the endocrinology of the human placenta. She is also a member of the ICADA scientific committee and director of RISUQ.
Researchers have also found that early maternal exposure to certain endocrine disruptors can affect the development of mammary glands in the fetus. This can make them more likely to develop breast cancer as adults.
This is the case for bisphenol A (BPA), found in some food-grade plastics, and diethylstilbestrol (DES), a synthetic estrogen that has been widely used in women to treat menopause or to prevent menopause. risk of pregnancy complications.
Exposure to endocrine disruptors may also be associated with an increased risk of developing prostate cancer.
Lack of awareness
“Many women believe they are aware of endocrine disruptors and the impact on their health, but few make lifestyle changes.” Plante said. “For example, some stop wearing makeup during pregnancy, but continue to dye their hair or use body lotions and creams.”
Nearly thousands of molecules are suspected of interfering with hormone receptors or hormone production, but there are certainly hundreds of thousands more. The researchers therefore targeted known molecules and others less well known, such as those found in liquids released from fracturing water during oil and gas exploration. .
“The message we want to send, as scientists, is that pregnant women or women who want to have children are particularly susceptible to the effects of endocrine disruptors. They must be aware of these the effect that these pollutants can have, not only on their health, but on their future children as well,” the conclusion of Professor Plante.