The endocrine disruptors (EDs) are, whether we like it or not, part of our environment. And they are not without risk. The World Health Organization (WHO) proposed a definition in 2002: an endocrine disruptor is “ an exogenous substance or mixture that alters the function(s) of the endocrine system and, as a result, causes a deleterious effect on the health of an individual, their offspring or subpopulations “. We therefore quickly understand the danger of introducing a disturbing element into this well-oiled machine that is the human body. At certain ages of life, however, exposure to EPs appears to be more critical.
Many works highlight the danger of PE for the younger of us. A study published in the journal Science in February 2022 evokes a detrimental effect of endocrine disruptors on brain development in young children. The cohort study Pelagie has been looking since 2002 at the impact of environmental contaminants on the intrauterine development of the child. This work has already revealed correlations between exposure to certain organic pollutants and the time it takes to conceive a child, or between herbicide exposure and intrauterine growth retardation. Scandals like that of Distilbene in the 1970s punctuate our common history with these substances, created to make our lives… easier. PEs would be particularly involved in issues such as diabetes, endometriosis, precocious puberty, reduced fertility or attention disorders.
Growth: window of vulnerability
Isabelle Doumenc is naturopath and author of the book Endocrine disruptors, a time bomb for our children (ed. Larousse). According to her, the particular susceptibility of children to PE is directly explained by the mode of operation of these substances, which affect the functioning of the hormonal system. “ The development of the fetus depends on hormonal messages, and if the wrong messages are given to organs and cells, it can lead to pathologies later in life. “, she explains. Added to this is the fact that during the child’s first two years, a significant growth cell is at work in his body, which makes him particularly vulnerable to pollution. The critical period would begin before birth. “ Some studies have shown that endocrine disruptors could also represent a danger during pregnancy, develops Isabelle Doumenc. These substances can cause health problems at birth, premature births or malformations, especially in the genitals.. »
For Christine Magendie, pediatrician and member of Afpa (French Association of Ambulatory Pediatrics), periods of strong body growth are those when we are most vulnerable to these pollutants: “ There are two main windows of vulnerability in our life, first is the period of thousand days which extends from conception to two years, then from puberty. The multiplicity of products to which we are exposed makes it difficult to identify the responsibility of a particular substance in a specific anomaly. However, certain product families have been identified and subject to regulations. “ The most identified families are those from which we must seek to protect ourselves the most, alert Isabelle Doumenc. The phthalates, firstly, are implicated in problems of premature pregnancy or births with a reduced head circumference. Next to that, the bisphenol is rather associated with hormone-dependent disturbances that can cause pathologies in the female reproductive system or the prostate. » Remember that we mainly find phthalates and bisphenols in plastics, such as food packaging, and cosmetics.
Legislation still behind schedule
even though endocrine disruptors (EDs) constitute a public health issue, it is often the responsibility of citizens to guard against it. Christine Magendie is a member of the Afpa (French Association of Ambulatory Pediatrics), which distributes information to parents. According to her, PEs should be better supervised, and she points a race-to-ban system, where manufacturers are always one step ahead : “ We have fought for years to have bisphenol A banned, but in the meantime manufacturers have developed new versions which are certainly also problematic.»
Endocrine disruptors from the cradle
The problem of pregnancy
“As a practitioner, it is important to also think of the parents, recommends Christine Magendie.These substances are present everywhere and when you have a child it can be very scary. Indeed, protecting oneself completely from PEs seems illusory. However, it is possible to limit our exposure and that of our children. A job that should start during pregnancy : “The fetus is very sensitive to endocrine disruptors, so the mother must adapt her daily life to this problem. “, precise Isabelle Doumenc. To do this, it is a matter of taking new lifestyle habits. First of all, the naturopath advises toadapt your diet. We bet on the organic for all that is fruits, vegetables and legumes. For the consumption of meatwe have it limit to three to four times a week by trying to turn to local and artisanal production. Finally, for the Pisces, avoid consuming it more than twice a week, a ratio that drops to a single serving per week for oily fish that store more pollutants than others. Similarly, in the kitchen, it is necessary to banish plastic food containers : “This also concerns fast-food type packaging, very vectors of phthalates which migrate to food when it is fatty or under the effect of heat.details Isabelle Doumenc. The same goes for the plastic packaging found in many shops. »
Daily, pregnant women are advised not to expose themselves to chemicals. We will therefore avoid doing work at home. For the cleaning, we will opt for natural products such as white vinegar. “As for the cosmetics, it is better to put as little as possible, advises Isabelle Doumenc.You can also choose organic labels like Nature and Progress, which is one of the most protective in France. ” Attention, alcohol and cigarettes also have an endocrine disrupting effect.
To get into this routine as easily as possible and to properly prepare the body for an imminent pregnancy, Isabelle Doumenc recommends implementing these new habits six months before conceiving a child : “A little time is needed for the body to prepare. If a person needs support to carry out this detox, it is possible to turn to a naturopath to acquire the right gestures. » A new routine that should be followed as much as possible by both parents.
Childhood and health: the new dangers
The right gestures for the baby
In addition to the good eating habits that should be continued, a few small actions can limit children’s exposure to PEs. If the use of organic products can sometimes have a financial impact, these tips help to balance the budget. “Against endocrine disruptors, not all advice is expensive, we can often do more with less “, assures Christine Magendie. This warns of the risks caused by the new products such as furniture or clothinglargely treated with flame retardants. For all those elements of daily life with which small children come into contact – cribs, clothes, toys – it is therefore better bet on the second hand and the recovery. In some cases, however, it is difficult to refuse certain new products, such as the toys offered by the family when a child is born… “We must wash at least three times the new comforters or clothes that we are offeredrecommended Isabelle Doumenc.At a minimum, children’s clothing is impregnated with flame retardants but also possibly with antimicrobials, therefore triclosan. »
In general, according to Christine Magendie, we must bet on the most natural things possible : “If a baby is in the sun, it is better to put a hat and a garment on him than to spread cream on him. Similarly, a mosquito net is preferable to mosquito repellents. » For creams and other treatments intended for children, Christine Magendie recommends looking at the list of ingredients, keeping in mind that “less is better “. In the kitchen too, we focus on simple materials: “For kitchen utensils, bet on the VIP: glass, stainless steel, porcelain. The cleaning will be done with natural products and regularly to avoid dust, where air pollution is deposited. You should also remember to ventilate at least 10 minutes a day.
Be careful, however, not to fall into hygienist excesses, specifies the pediatrician : “INor should you try to clean everything. It’s also good to let the children play on the floor and allow them to have sensory experiences, to move, rather than keeping them tied up in snuggles. »
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