A study published in the Journal of Applied Toxicology reports that a common chemical found in cleaning materials, textiles, and plastics triggers breast cancer in mice.

That chemical, 4-nonylphenol, which mimics the female hormone, estrogen, once it is in the body, is considered a hormone-disrupting substance. Such chemicals have long been suspected as posing a health risk. Many breast cancers are linked to hormone levels.

Nonylphenol and a similar chemical, bisphenol A, are being studied in the UK and the U.S. since they stimulate an enzyme system that, in turn, increases the production of another similar hormone known as estriol. Both estrogen and estriol have been linked to breast cancer.

The study was conducted at the University of Texas at El Paso and Clemson University in South Carolina and used mice to compare the effects of 4-nonylphenol (4-NP) and estrogen. Many of the mice exposed to 4-NP developed breast cancer over a 32-week test period while those given estrogen did not.
The researchers suggested that the findings might mean there is a risk of developing breast cancer associated with long-term exposure to 4-NP. They stress that much more research is needed before any firm conclusions can be drawn, however.

Only last month, we reported on a study conducted at King’s College London which found that a number of substances may have a seriously negative effect on the human fertilization process.

One of those chemicals was genistein, which is found in soya, tofu, and legumes. Two other estrogen-like chemicals were identified as having a similar debilitating effect on sperm. They are 8-prenylnaringenin, found in hops and beer, and nonylphenol, which is contained in industrial products such as paints, pesticides, and cleaning agents.

Genistein and the chemicals with similar effects cause the cap on the head of a sperm (acrosome) to rupture prematurely. This releases the enzymes needed to drill through the egg wall much too soon thereby preventing fertilization. Thus, while the sperm is still alive and moving actively, it has lost its ability to fertilize the egg.

Certainly, the progress of the research with respect to all of these chemicals bears watching in the months and years to come.

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