Inquiring Minds - Endocrine Disruptors

Flagstaff, AZ –

Soaps, paints, furniture - even makeup - may be making us sick. Environmental endocrinologist Dr. Catherine Propper is looking into the effects of chemicals that are all around us. What's happening to frogs may not be a big leap from what may be happening to humans.

This is inquiring minds, insights from the campus of Northern Arizona University.

Amphibians are disappearing all over the world. Scientists believe this has something to do with chemicals known as endocrine disrupters.

These chemicals have been linked to infertility, cancer and other health problems in laboratory animals. Many are found in pesticides, pharmaceuticals and plastics. Dr. Catherine Propper says endocrine disrupters are everywhere. They are in the air we breathe, the furniture in our homes and the food we eat.

Propper is studying their effects on frogs. An alarming number of male frogs (and fish) are developing female reproductive organs. Propper calls this feminizing of male aquatic animals worrisome.

Swimming around in rivers and drainages are trace amounts of chemicals. Octylphenol, for example, is in many personal care products like makeup. Bisphenol A, or BPA, is used to make plastics and resins. It's in lotions, detergents, baby bottles and dental fillings. BPA also is in the lining of most canned goods.

Propper says these compounds, designed to make our lives easier, actually may be affecting our health over time.

She says endocrine disrupters are causing big problems in organisms that are not dramatically different physiologically from humans. She calls her frog research disturbing. She's concerned endocrine disrupters are harmfully leaching into our lives, as well.

Propper's work with frogs may help us get a jump on reducing harmful chemicals in our environment.