(NaturalNews) Much of the focus in recent years on hormone disruptors in consumer products and the food supply has been directed at bisphenol-A (BPA), the hidden plastics chemical that was recently found in a peer-reviewed study to be present in the bloodstreams of virtually everyone. But a new study recently published online in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives draws fresh attention to the issue of ubiquitous flame retardant chemicals, which exert similar estrogenic effects in humans exposed to them.
Like BPA, flame retardant chemicals interfere with the body's endocrine system, impairing its ability to balance hormones and dispose of excess estrogen. Perpetual exposure to these toxins, it turns out, can lead not only to long-term health problems like infertility, rapid aging and depletion of energy but also to developmental and growth impairment in young children. And perhaps the most frightening aspect of all this is the fact that flame retardant chemicals are everywhere, despite having never been properly safety tested by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Earlier this year, a study published by the National Toxicology Program (NTP), a division of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), revealed that exposure to one of the most widely used brominated flame retardants (BFRs), tetrabromobisphenol A (TBBPA), led to the development of tumors in both rats and mice. For those that do not know, TBBPA is a synthesized derivative of BPA that is commonly used in the circuit boards found in computers, consumer electronics and mobile phones. It is also used by the automotive industry and the military.
Not surprisingly, industry-funded research has long claimed that TBBPA is perfectly safe. But independent research tells a much different story. So to get to the bottom of the issue, Dr. Linda Birnbaum, Ph.D., director of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, part of NIH and the NTP, and her colleagues set out to further study this pervasive and controversial chemical to see whether or not it acts in the same way as BPA.
Using X-ray crystallography technology, Dr. Birnbaum and her team built a three-dimensional model of TBBPA to see how it affects the hormone systems of the body. And sure enough, they learned that TBBPA binds to and inhibits an enzyme that is supposed to metabolize estrogen. When it gets bound with TBBPA, in other words, this enzyme cannot function normally, which can lead to a buildup of estrogen in the body.
"Using the 3-D imaging capabilities, we can see the flame retardants binding, or attaching, to proteins like estrogens do," explains Dr. Birnbaum. "In this case, the ability of flame retardants to bind to and inhibit an enzyme that metabolizes estrogen, called estrogen sulfotransferase, could result in the body having too much estrogen."
Hundreds of flame retardants like TBBPA currently being used in consumer products
Unfortunately, TBBPA is not the only dangerous BFR currently in widespread use -- there are literally hundreds of other BFRs with similar chemical structures being applied to clothing, furniture, building materials, consumer electronics, cars and many other products for the "safety" of the public. This means that the average person faces a constant onslaught of hormone-disrupting toxins virtually everywhere.
"This particular study helps us literally see what brominated flame retardants do when they get in the body -- they interfere with the body's natural hormones," adds Dr. Birnbaum.
To learn more about the dangers of flame retardant chemicals, be sure to check out NoHarm.org, a project of Health Care Without Harm: http://www.noharm.org
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