European Trade Union Institute, ETUI.

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10 September 2019

High levels of endocrine disruptors found among children

esteban publication

Hundreds of substances capable of disrupting hormone production exist. Used to a massive extent by industry in many different products, these substances are linked to serious health problems such as cancers, reproductive health disorders, developmental disorders such as obesity, lower intelligence quotients, etc. The main substances used include bisphenols, phthalates, parabens, glycol ethers, brominated flame retardants and perfluorinated compounds (PFCs). For the first time, the French public health agency Santé publique France has measured the presence of these substances of very high concern (SVHCs) in the bodies of children and adults in a large sample (1,104 children and 2,503 adults) representative of the French population. The work was carried out in the context of the ESTEBAN (enquête de santé sur l’environnement, la biosurveillance, l’activité physique et la nutrition) public health survey.

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Nearly 70 biomarkers were monitored. The study was based on biological samples (urine, blood serum and hair) and a questionnaire on participants' lifestyle habits, food consumption and other personal features. A cross analysis of the results from the biological tests and the questionnaires enabled the presence of these pollutants in the population to be quantified and greater insight to be gained into the sources of exposure.

The results show that these substances, omnipresent in everyday products and often proven or suspected endocrine disruptors or carcinogens, are “present in the bodies of all French people”, with “the highest levels found among children”. Generally speaking, these levels are consistent with those found in other studies conducted abroad, for example in the United States and Canada.

This initial large-scale bio-surveillance study is to be followed by two further studies focused on metals and pesticides. Taking no specific account of occupational exposure, the study “reflects an unfortunately all-too-common shortcoming in the majority of public health policies”, stated Laurent Vogel, senior researcher at the ETUI. “We have several other data sources available, all of which show that occupational exposure in many different scenarios plays a key role in assimilating such substances”, he concluded.

Reports published by the ESTEBAN study (in French):

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