Please don't disrupt my endocrines!

74px-Illu_endocrine_system.pngUnless you've been living under a rock these past few years, or purposefully avoiding the newspaper, you've likely heard the term 'endocrine disruptor.' And it has a serious ring to it, doesn't it? Like when you hear the phrase you get an immediate sense that endocrines should definitely not be disrupted, and a sinking feel that maybe yours aren't safe. And you'd be right on both counts.

What's an endocrine, anyway? First off, it's the endocrine system, not just one lone endocrine (as I once thought). And this is one important system. Why? It produces and manages hormones, that's why. It accomplishes this through a complex system of glands and receptors throughout the body (familiar sounding glands like pituitary, thyroid, adrenal, ovaries, and testicles). Hormones (such as insulin, estrogen, and testosterone) are produced in these glands, travel through the bloodstream, and bind with matching receptors. These hormones control a bunch of important functions in the body, like growth, reproduction, blood pressure, and food utilization, to name but a few.

Now that you know all about the endocrine system, what's a disruptor? So glad you asked! A hormone disruptor is a substance from outside the body (yup, exogenous) that comes right in and acts like a hormone from inside the body (endogenous), thus disrupting a very delicate balance, preventing those endogenous hormones from doing what they do so well: bind with receptors. Check out this animated illustration of it all.

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