A significant study has revealed that common chemicals found in food can linings, cash register receipts and plastics and cosmetics have put millions on high risk of diabetes and obesity worldwide.
The chemicals are so common that nearly every person on Earth has been exposed to one or more. Called Endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs), these chemical contribute to health problems by mimicking, blocking or otherwise interfering with the body's natural hormones.
By hijacking the body's chemical messengers, EDCs can alter the way cells develop and grow.
"The evidence is more definitive than ever before. EDCs disrupt hormones in a manner that harms human health," said Andrea C. Gore, professor at University of Texas at Austin in a statement by the Endocrine Society, an international medical organization in the field of endocrinology and metabolism.
The statement builds upon the Society's groundbreaking 2009 report which examined the state of scientific evidence on EDCs and the risks posed to human health.
In the ensuing years, additional research has found that exposure is associated with increased risk of developing diabetes and obesity.
Mounting evidence also indicates EDC exposure is connected to infertility, hormone-related cancers, neurological issues and other disorders.
Known EDCs include bisphenol A (BPA) found in food can linings and cash register receipts and phthalates found in plastics and cosmetics, flame retardants and pesticides.
The threat is particularly great when unborn children are exposed to EDCs.
Animal studies found that exposure to even tiny amounts of EDCs during the prenatal period can trigger obesity later in life.
Similarly, animal studies found that some EDCs directly target cells in the pancreas, fat cells and liver cells.
This can lead to insulin resistance and an overabundance of the hormone insulin in the body - risk factors for Type 2 diabetes.
"With more chemicals being introduced into the market all the time, better safety testing is needed to identify new EDCs and ensure they are kept out of household goods," Gore emphasized.
Exposure to endocrine-disrupting chemicals during early development can have long-lasting, even permanent consequences.
"It is time for the policymakers to take this wealth of evidence into account as they develop legislation," the statement read.