Endocrine disruptors are chemicals with the potential to interfere with our hormones and adversely affect our health. These chemicals can be found in a variety of sources including pesticides, plastics, household cleaners, cosmetics, paints, metals and flame retardants. Industrially, they can be formed as by-products of certain manufacturing processes. Given their wide presence, these chemicals have the potential to be transferred to the food chain (e.g. the transfer of pesticide residues to food). Indeed, some chemicals are known as “natural endocrine disruptors” as they occur naturally in certain foods. Examples include: chemicals produced by moulds (known as “mycotoxins”) and oestrogen-like chemicals found in plants (known as “phytoestrogens”).
Exposure to endocrine-disrupting chemicals could potentially increase one’s risk of becoming infertile, obese, developing Type-2 Diabetes and / or developing certain cancers; this increased risk is especially true if the exposure takes place during critical growth-stages (e.g. during pregnancy and puberty). Both individual chemicals – and mixtures of these chemicals – can be harmful. It is important to note that the same level of exposure affects everyone’s disease-risk differently, with some people being more vulnerable to specific diseases than others. That said, it is recommended to minimize exposure, where possible, as acceptable exposure-levels are not always known. Additional research – especially on mixtures of endocrine disruptors – therefore needs to be carried-out.
The “PROTECTion against Endocrine Disruptors” or “PROTECTED” Project aims to carry-out further research into endocrine disruptors and their mixtures. The project aims to foster the next generation of experts in this area; its fifteen “Early-Stage Researchers” will therefore undergo a high level of international and multi-sectorial training. The research (co-ordinated by Queen’s University Belfast) will improve the methods for detecting and evaluating the effects of endocrine disruptors. Furthermore, the project will emphasize the study of the effects of endocrine disruptors on critical growth-stages (i.e. pregnancy, childhood and puberty) of both animals and humans. With an emphasis on making the research accessible to a wide audience, all risk-related information will be communicated to consumers in a clear and concise manner. Together, these initiatives will help ensure not only the security of the environment, but also the health of the public.
Might diet and exercise alone no longer be the answer to managing weight? Are chemicals making us fat? Could the increasing use of and exposure to environmental chemicals including substances used in our everyday lives such as plastics, pesticides, personal care products, household and other consumer goods be linked to the escalating obesity and diabetes epidemics and potentially costing the NHS billions?
This was the focus of a public talk last summer at QUB’s Institute for Global Food Security by world leading obesogens expert and international speaker Juliette Legler, Professor of Toxicology and Environmental Health, Utrecht University in the Netherlands. We recorded and are now sharing her guest lecture as part of our broader four-year Marie Curie innovative Training Network project PROTECTED (Protected Against Endocrine Disruptors).
Special guest talks are an important part of our study (involving 13 organisations across nine countries) to tell if exposure to certain chemicals and their mixtures can detrimentally affect the hormone system causing adverse health effects such as cancer, obesity, diabetes or infertility.
Through innovative early stage research, we also hope to build a sufficient knowledge base to inform, legislation, improve monitoring and reduced exposure to humans and the environment. To find our more from Professor Legler Click here
Inspiring children to get involved in science is crucial for creating the next generation of scientists. The Institute for Global Food Security (IGFS), based at Queen’s University Belfast, was pleased to welcome back the Primary Health Sciences Conference for the third year. 250 primary school pupils were invited to the university and the event was attended by over 300 people.
Train new researchers
To train a new generation of young researchers with multi-disciplinary skills needed in the emerging field of EDs, their mixtures and impacts on health.
Develop analysis capabilities
To develop innovative analysis capabilities for the risk assessment and communication of the impact of EDs and their mixtures on health and environment.
To expand Analytical tools in the areas of Human Health, Environmental Health and Industrial Sustainability. And to promote these tools as part of the project.
Develop Communication strategies in the areas of Human Health, Environmental Health and Industrial Sustainability.
Risk Assessment Tools
To establish and grow new risk assessment tools in relation to the Project Areas.
To share Knowledge and skills between and partner academics, beneficiaries, partners and ESRs.
Lisa Connolly, Jodie Wilson, Moira Dean, Chris Elliott, Merete Eggesbø, Paul Fowler,Erik Ropstad, Steven Verhaegen, Karin Zimmer, Thomas Fraser, Katrine Eldegard, Isabelle Oswald, Gudrun Kausel, Gunnar Eriksen, Silvio Uhlig, Marc Muller, Marie -Louise Scippo, Bart Van der Burg, Rafael Gozalbes, Declan Billington, Marc Ruelle, Siddhartha Mandal.
The PDF can be obtained here.
The fetal ovary exhibits temporal sensitivity to a ‘real-life’ mixture of environmental chemicals. Scientific Reports; 6, 22279.
Lea, R.G., Amezaga, M.R., Loup, B., Mandon-Pépin, B., Stefansdottir, A., Filis, P., Kyle, C., Zhang, Z., Allen, C., Purdie, L., Jouneau, L., Cotinot, C., Rhind, S.M., Sinclair, K.D., Fowler, P.A. (2016).
Innovative training networks bring together universities, research centres and companies from different countries worldwide to train a new generation of researchers. The funding boosts scientific excellence and business innovation, and enhances researchers’ career prospects through developing their skills in entrepreneurship, creativity and innovation.
Joint research training, implemented by at least three partners from in and outside academia. The aim is for the researcher to experience different sectors and develop their transferable skills by working on joint research projects.
"PROTECTED aims to develop innovative analysis capabilities for the risk assessment and communication of the impact of EDs and their mixtures on health and environment."
"To expand Analytical tools in the areas of Human Health, Environmental Health and Industrial Sustainability. And to promote these tools as part of the project."
"The PROTECTED Innovative Training Network [ITN] proposes a holistic approach by providing 15 individual, personalised research projects with exposure to scientific, innovative and entrepreneurial training mobility across the ITN."
The coordinator for PROTECTion against Endocrine Disruptors;Detection, mixtures, health effects, risk assessment and communication is Dr. Lisa Connolly. Contact can be made via the links below:Institute for Global Food Security