Chemicals found in household products may be causing significant increases in cancers, diabetes, obesity and falling fertility, the European Environment Agency has warned.
Among the everyday items containing endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs), which affect the hormone system, are food, cosmetics and pharmaceuticals.
The chemicals, which can leach out into food and be absorbed by the body, are also causing an increased number of neurological development problems in both humans and animals, it is claimed.
Warning: Chemicals found in household products may be causing significant increases in cancers, diabetes, obesity and falling fertility
In recent decades, there has been a significant growth in many human diseases and disorders including breast and prostate cancer, male infertility and diabetes.
The substances mimic female hormones and have already been linked to breast cancer, low quality semen and thryoid disease as well as sex changes in fish in polluted waterways.
Many scientists think that this growth is connected to the 'rising levels of exposure' to mixtures of some chemicals in widespread use.
Jacqueline McGlade, EEA executive director, said: 'Scientific research gathered over the last few decades shows us that endocrine disruption is a real problem, with serious effects on wildlife, and possibly people.
The EEA has called for a 'precautionary approach' to the chemicals until their affect is better understood, but stopped short of recommending a complete ban.
It did, however, fully accept that there is a definite link between the chemicals and some diseases seen in humans.
The chemicals mimic female hormones and have already been linked to the rise in obesity
The study says: 'There is a large body of evidence linking chemical exposure to thyroid, immune, reproductive and neurological problems in animals, and many of the same or similar diseases and disorders have been observed to be rising in human populations.
'Both animals and humans may be exposed to these chemicals in the environment, or via water or the food chain where the chemicals can build up.'
EEA scientists arrived at their findings after combing through scientific literature commissioned by the agency over the past 15 years.
The study has been published in a report titled 'The impacts of endocrine disrupters on wildlife, people and their environments'.
It concludes: 'Tthe effects of EDCs on humans may be more difficult to demonstrate, due to the length, cost and methodological difficulties with these types of studies – so wildlife and animal studies may be seen in some cases as an early warning of the dangers.'
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