We are exposed to endocrine disruptors everyday. Endocrine disruptors like BPA and phthalates lurk in everything from cleaning products to fragrances.So, what are the top endocrine disruptors to avoid? Here is a list of the ones you should completely avoid.
1. Organophosphate Pesticides
These pesticides are sprayed on food to kill common pests. Pesticide residue on vegetables and fruits are one of the most common ways we consume these dangerous chemicals. Organophosphate pesticides have been shown to cause infertility in men, slow brain development in children, and have even been shown to affect thyroid function. Try to choose organic when purchasing food to avoid these pesticides.
17α-Ethynylestradiol is a synthetic form of estrogen and the only one that remains active when taken orally. Currently, this synthetic hormone can be found in all forms of oral birth control. Studies have shown that it promotes breast cancer complications and cell proliferation. Even the US government has acknowledged its dangerous effects.
3. Fire Retardants (PBDEs)
PBDEs, or polybrominated diethyl ethers, disrupt thyroid function by blocking the uptake of iodine, eventually taking its place in the thyroid. Because of this action, they also mimic and disrupt thyroid hormones. PBDEs have been linked to lower IQ and are proven to negatively affect neural and physical development in children and developing infants.
Phthalates are added to plastics to aid durability and flexibility. Their negative health effects have been constantly reported in various studies all across the world. Phthalates can easily leach into water and bottled water is subject to contamination. Research has confirmed that phthalates inhibit sperm cell development. They’re also linked to obesity, diabetes, and thyroid conditions. Always store foods and liquids in glass whenever possible.
BPA is everywhere: Food cans, plastic bottles, cell phone protectors, and even water pipes may contain BPA. BPA has even been found on store receipts and can be absorbed through the skin on contact. According to government research, ninety-three percent of Americans have detectable levels of BPA in their bodies. BPA has been tied to obesity, breast cancer, early-onset puberty, cardiovascular disease, and reproductive problems. Choose BPA-free storage containers and, again, use glass whenever possible. The science varies on how much of a risk these combined exposures pose in everyday life, but recent research shows even very low-dose exposures can be significant.
Perchlorate can be found in rocket fuel, explosives, fireworks, and fertilizers. This common environmental chemical noticeably disrupts thyroid function. Similarly to PBDEs, perchlorate replaces iodine in the thyroid and leads to decreased thyroid activity. Symptoms of decreased thyroid activity include weight gain, poor energy, and depression. Water contains the highest concentrations of perchlorate. The best solution to prevent damage from this endocrine disruptor is to ensure you are getting enough iodine. A high-quality water filter may also help filter out perchlorate.
This element naturally occurs deep within the earth’s crust, but can also be released through mining and industrial activities and find its way to water sources. Exposure to arsenic can result in insulin resistance, immune system suppression, slowed cognitive development, cardiovascular damage, and weight gain/loss. The best way to protect against arsenic is to install a water filter that specifically removes arsenic. Arsenic is found in foods like brown rice. It’s best to buy basmatic brown rice. It has less arsenic.
8. Perfluorinated chemicals (PFCs)
It’s estimated that 99% of Americans have PFC accumulation in their bodies. PFCs are commonly used to make non-stick pans. During cooking, some of these chemicals escape into your food and accumulate in your body. PFCs disrupt hormone function and have been tied to infertility, ineffective sperm, heart disease, thyroid disease, high cholesterol, and low birth-weight in babies. One study confirmed PFCs, especially PFOA and PFHxS, negatively affect thyroid hormone levels. Avoid non-stick cookware.
Mercury is toxic and dangerous to pregnant women and their babies. It’s will bind with a hormone essential to menstruation and ovulation. Mercury also attacks the pancreas to affect insulin production. Suffice to say – avoid mercury! Reducing seafood consumption may be one of the best solutions to reduce mercury intake; unfortunately, fish is no longer the only concern. The new compact fluorescent lamp (CFL) light bulbs contain dangerous levels of mercury. In fact, if one of these light bulbs break, evacuation is recommended.
The US government recognizes dioxin as an endocrine disruptor. Dioxin, a byproduct of industrial processes, can create issues such as heart disease, diabetes, reduced fertility, poor sperm activity and low sperm counts, embryo development interference, and spontaneous miscarriage. Meats and other food products which contain animal products provide the majority of exposure to Americans. It accumulates in fat and can remain for years.
Other endocrine disruptors
Other chemicals that are known endocrine disruptors include diethylstilbestrol (the synthetic estrogen DES), dioxin-like compounds, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), DDT, and some other pesticides.
What Can You Do?
Although it may be difficult, it is possible to take steps to avoid endocrine disruptors. If you eat meat or fish, choose organic, free-range, or wild sources. Buy fresh, organic produce as much as possible, and choose glass for food storage. Ask your physician or nutritionist, if you need to take an iodine supplement to protect your thyroid. It is suggested that regular cleansing helps remove toxin accumulation.
You may remember learning in your biology class that your body is run by a network of hormones and glands that regulate everything you do. When thinking about the endocrine system, in the context of puberty, but it actually plays a major role in all phases of development, metabolism, and behavior.
Synthetic chemicals in products like plastics and fragrances can mimic hormones and interfere with or disrupt your delicate endocrine system. We’re exposed to these chemicals daily, and we’re especially vulnerable to them during phases of accelerated development…before and during childhood. “We have very tight windows of when, say, our brain and liver are made,” explains Kristi Pullen Fedinick, an NRDC staff scientist. “When a hormone-disrupting chemical gets in the way during these windows, it can change the ways these processes happen. The change is often irreversible.”
So, is there any good news? Yes, while NRDC works to get better safeguards in place, there are ways you can try to steer clear of endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs). Here’s how.
1. Wash your hands
If you follow just one piece of advice from this list, make it this small, easy thing: Wash your hands frequently (avoiding fragranced and antibacterial soaps), and always before eating. You’ll rinse a substantial amount of chemical residue down the drain.
2. Dust and vacuum often
Even though they’re linked to hormone disruption (and cancer, too), flame retardant chemicals are used in many common household products. Research shows that these chemicals escape from electronics, couches, and baby products and collect in your household dust. Most families don’t have the budget to replace all these items with flame-retardant-free versions; however, we all can afford to keep our house clean by dusting with a damp cloth and using a vacuum with a High Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filter, which traps small particles of dust instead of blowing them around the house. You’ll also reduce your exposure to other chemicals that can accumulate in your home, like lead (in older buildings), phthalates, and fluorinated chemicals.
3. Turn up your nose at fragrances
The word fragrance on a label signifies a mix of potentially hundreds of ingredients, and the exact formulas of most companies claim are trade secrets. And we do know that phthalates is one class of chemicals typically found in fragrance and can disrupt hormones. Fortunately, fragrance isn’t necessary for a product to function well or be effective. Choose fragrance-free creams, cleaning products, and laundry detergents. And check ingredient labels to find out where else fragrance lurks; it can show up in unexpected places, such as diapers or garbage bags. And check so-called essential oils that actually have fragrance oils.
For safer ways of freshening your indoor air, open windows, use fans, and empty smelly trash cans and litter boxes instead of trying to cover them up. You can also turn to natural odor-busters like fresh flowers on the kitchen counter, citrus peels in the garbage disposal, or an open box of baking soda in the fridge.
4. Think twice about plastics
You can’t eliminate all plastic, but you can take some easy steps to reduce your plastic use. Swap plastic food storage containers with glass or stainless steel; if you do keep plastic ones, don’t use them to store fatty foods, and never microwave them. Replace plastic baggies with reusable lunch bags, and plastic cling wrap with beeswax-coated cloth. Choose hard wood blocks and cotton baby dolls over plastic ones. In short, anytime you’re in the market for something plastic, research whether safer alternatives exist.
5.Say “no can do” to cans
Canned foods can make meal prep a breeze, but those cans are likely lined with BPA to keep them from corroding. Even though cans labeled as “BPA-free” may use a similar chemical that hasn’t been proved any safer, according to a study in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives.
Choosing fresh, frozen, or dried foods (like beans) that aren’t packaged in cans is a smart preventive measure. Aseptic “brick” cartons or glass packaging are both better than cans.
6. Watch what you eat
Certain pesticides have been linked to hormone disruption. Eat organic food as much as you can afford to. If your food budget is tight, choose conventionally grown foods known to have the least amount of pesticide residue. As a general rule of thumb, try to eat food that is as close to whole as possible, i.e. a whole roasted chicken instead of processed chicken nuggets. When you can, avoid food packaging. And consider how you prepare food, as well. EDCs can hide in nonstick pots and pans, so cook in stainless steel or cast iron instead.
7. Filter your tap water
Drinking tap water out of a glass will reduce your exposure to BPA and other chemicals in cans and plastic bottles. But tap water can contain a slew of its own potential hormone disruptors, including residue from birth control pills, according to NRDC’s Drinking Water Project. Running water from the tap through an NSF-certified water filter can, when properly installed and maintained, decrease the level of some endocrine-disrupting chemicals.
8. Rethink kids’ cosmetics
Even though children don’t need cosmetics, there’s a whole slew of kid-related lotions, potions, bubbles, polishes, glosses, and glitters on the market. These can contain a number of EDCs (not to mention chemicals linked to cancer, asthma, and skin irritation) that make them smell good, glide on smoothly, and be otherwise irresistible to kids. Just say no, and leave that perfect baby skin alone!
Check the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep Cosmetics Database. A rule of thumb, the fewer products you use with the least amount of ingredients, the better.
9. Clean smarter
While “cleaning,” many of us actually introduce indoor air pollutants into our homes in the form of harsh chemical products. It’s difficult (and often impossible) to know what chemicals any given cleaning product contains because companies aren’t required to list the ingredients on the label. To encourage transparency and safer products, buy from companies that voluntarily disclose their ingredients and look for the Safer Choice label. You can also easily make your own cleaners from safe household staples like vinegar, borax, and baking soda.
10. Speak out
Tell companies, agencies, and policy makers that we need systems in place to make sure that toxic chemicals like EDCs, phthalates, and fluorinated chemicals stay out of our food, water, or homes in the first place.
Good news! There are more companies that offer eco-friendly products. Some of these companies are:
Shaline Miller is a Certified Integrative Nutrition Health Coach specializing in Women’s Hormone Health. Shaline has on-going issues with her gut, thyroid, and liver and incorporates whole foods, yoga, to keep these issues in check.