Obesogens in the Global Supply Chain

Obesogens are substances of very high concerns (SVHCs) and may be functionally defined as chemicals that inappropriately alter lipid homeostasis and fat storage, change metabolic set-points, disrupt energy balance or modify the regulation of appetite and satiety to promote fat accumulation and obesity.

Awareness on the use of Obesogens is very important; being artificial chemicals, believed to contribute to obesity and availability in the global supply chain containing SVHCs as ingredients. These substances promote fat accumulation, change metabolic process, disturb energy balance, change appetite levels a part of our daily lives could be harmful to the public health and our environment as SVHCs.

Exploring the role of such chemicals help in knowing weight gain that lead to obesity. The ones that impact hormones are called endocrine disrupting chemicals, or endocrine disruptors, and are linked to a variety of diseases. Some endocrine disruptors have shown changes in processes of fat cells development, thereby, increasing fat storage capacity or the number of fat cells.

“Some endocrine disruptors have been shown to be obesogens, or involved in weight gain, and may be contributing to the obesity problem in this country. The term obesogens was coined around 2006, based on the knowledge that exposures during early development to specific chemicals were found to disrupt normal metabolic processes and increase susceptibility to weight gain across the lifespan. Poor nutrition and lack of exercise are known contributors to obesity, but these chemicals may also be contributing.”

They are found in various food containers, baby bottles, toys, plastics, cookware and cosmetics. When these chemicals enter the body, they can disrupt its normal function and promote fat gain with increase in weight. Some obesogens are listed to the Candidate List of the European Union’s Chemical Agency (ECHA) due to their carcinogenic, toxic to reproduction, persistent, bioaccumulative and toxic (PBT) and very persistent and very bioaccumulative (vPvB) properties.

Some Important Obesegens are:

Bisphenol-A (BPA):

BPA is a synthetic compound found in many types of products, including baby bottles, plastic food and beverage containers, as well as metal food cans.

Phthalates:

Phthalates are chemicals used to make plastics soft and flexible. They are found in various products, including food containers, toys, beauty products, pharmaceuticals, shower curtains and paint. These chemicals can easily leach out of plastics and contaminate foods, the water supply and even the very air we breathe. A Swedish study found that children can absorb airborne phthalates from plastic floor material through the skin and respiratory tract.

Atrazine

Atrazine is one of the most widely used herbicides in the US. It has been banned in Europe for over a decade because of groundwater contamination. Atrazine is also an endocrine disruptor and several studies show that exposure correlates with birth defects in humans In the US; there is an overlap between the areas that use the most atrazine and the prevalence of obesity.

Organotins

Organotins are a class of artificial chemicals used for various industrial purposes. One of them is called tributyltin (TBT). It is used as a fungicide and applied to boats and ships to prevent the growth of marine organisms on the hull. It is also used in wood preservatives and some industrial water systems. Tributyltin is harmful to marine organisms and has been banned by various regulatory authorities.

Perfluorooctanoic Acid (PFOA)

Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) is a synthetic compound used for various purposes, constituent of non-stick substances made with Teflon also found in microwave popcorn.

Smoking & Vaping Chemicals

Chemicals during smoking may include formaldehyde, lead, tar, and nicotine. Many of these chemicals act as irritants and worsen symptoms in people with asthma and allergies.

It is impossible to avoid obesogens completely but can be reduced by less exposure avoiding food or drinks stored in plastic containers. It is very essential to know the effects of these chemicals based on research in laboratory animals. Research is still going to confirm the effects of these chemicals. Most of the data is observational and based on studies in lab animals. Use these chemicals with great precaution and be safe.

As data accumulate on the effects of obesogens in vitro and in animal models, the question of how these compounds affect humans remains largely unanswered.

For the regulators there should be some clinical data to go on when determining the acceptable exposure levels for the chemicals the like permissible exposure limits (PELs) by the US OSHA or Threshold Values (TLVs) or occupational exposure levels as (OELs) by the ACGIH or other OSH organizations. There is a need of finding the thresholds values or limits to taken actions. In the US, the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) is the main law that regulates chemicals found in products other than pesticides, food, and cosmetics. Some of the countries in the global world are more stringent than others.

The main concept of the GHS (Global Harmonization and Classification System of chemicals) to provide harmonized information to users of chemicals with the goal of enhancing protection of human health and the environment. As of today most of countries already have regulatory systems in place for chemical classification and hazard communication just like the US.

Millions of people have been affected worldwide by obesity, particularly the increase cases among young children and babies. Understanding is important how our bodies store and process fat by the use of such chemicals known as ‘obesogens’, and work on possible contribution to reduce such cases by following the already known steps such as these below:

• Eat fresh fruit and vegetables

• Reduce use of plastics

• Do not use plastics in the microwave

• Purchase furniture that has not been treated with flame retardants

• Choose fragrance-free products

• Avoid foods and beverages that have been stored in plastic containers.

• Use stainless steel or quality aluminum water bottles replacing plastics

• Do not feed your babies from plastic bottles. Use glass bottles instead.

• Instead of non-stick cookware, use cast iron or stainless steel.

• Use organic, natural cosmetics.

 

References:

  • Obesogen, web page at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Obesogen
  • Obesity and Obesogen by NIEHS (Health & Education), web page at: web at: https://www.niehs.nih.gov/health/topics/conditions/obesity/obesogens/index.cfm.
  • ECHA Candidate List of 2019, web page at: https://echa.europa.eu/candidate-list-table.

 

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