Endocrine Disruptors and Their Impact on the Body
What are Endocrine Disruptors?
The endocrine system is responsible for producing and controlling the hormones (chemical messengers) within the body. Hormones are responsible for regulating our menstrual cycles, testosterone levels, hunger and fullness levels, energy levels, and so much more. Hormones play an extremely crucial role in our overall health. The Endocrine system comprises an intricate group of organs that all use hormones to communicate. Endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) mimic hormones and can cause a break in communication, (8.) EDCs, as a result, interfere with the production, function, and elimination of our naturally occurring hormones. Which can lead to various adverse outcomes such as obesity, infertility, hormonal disruptions, endometriosis, immune dysfunction, mood disorders, and interference with neurological (your brain and nervous system) health, (8.) EDCs wreak havoc on the body when exposed in excess but are manageable once you know where to spot them and how to avoid them. Follow along to learn where you can find them and the best practices to minimize exposure!
This list outlines a few of the everyday endocrine disruptors we come in contact with each day. But the list does not stop here; according to a report done by the Endocrine Society and International Pollutants Elimination Network, there is over 140 endocrine-disrupting chemicals in daily use.
Bisphenol A (BPA) — binds to estrogen receptors and mimics estrogenic effects.
Typically found in plastic food storage, plastic water bottles, plastic wrap, and most plastic goods and receipts, (5.)
Parabens — mimic estrogen in the body and disrupt normal hormone functioning.
Found in: personal care products (lotions, hair care, sunscreen, cosmetics) (2.)(9.)
Phthalates — inhibits testosterone and impacts reproductive abilities in men. In women, phthalates are hazardous during pregnancy, (4.)
Used to make plastics more flexible, also found in some food packaging, personal care products, make-up, and children's toys
One of the primary EDC under the term "fragrance."
Fragrance — can lead to endocrine disruption, skin irritation, a known asthma trigger, headaches, etc.
Companies are not required to list all ingredients on the label, so when you see the word fragrance, it could contain hundreds of compounds such as phthalates, terpenes, and other chemical compounds.
You might find fragrance labeled as "synthetic" or "natural." This does not hold any meaning, "natural" fragrances can be chemically synthesized to appear, smell or taste like the real thing. It is best to avoid a product altogether if it contains any kind of fragrance.
Fragrance can also be labeled as parfum or perfume.
Found in most scented products: candles, laundry detergent, hair care products, skincare, air fresheners, soaps, etc.
PFAS chemicals — disrupt thyroid function, mimic fatty acids, and interfere with hormone systems
PFAS chemicals are a group of toxic fluorinated chemicals.
Found in most non-stick cookware, waterproof clothing, coating on upholstered furniture, food packaging, take-out containers, & carpets.
The PFAS do not break down when released into the environment, so our water supply is beginning to become contaminated. The Environmental Working Group has found "PFAS contamination of drinking water or groundwater in almost 1,400 sites in 49 states." (1.)
Triclosan — interferes with estrogen and androgen production, inhibiting thyroid function, (6.)
Found in antibacterial soaps, mouthwashes/toothpaste, body wash, some cosmetics, and plastic toys
Brominated Flame retardants — linked to abnormal thyroid function
Found in electronics, furniture, and clothing to reduce flammability
Atrazine — alters the production of dopamine and norepinephrine; affects prolactin levels (promotes breast milk production when needed) and luteinizing hormone (stimulates estrogen and progesterone production), (1.)
Herbicide is sprayed on most row crops.
How to Avoid EDCs?
Buy Organic Produce:
Buying organic produce reduces your chances of exposure to the pesticides and herbicides sprayed on conventionally grown produce.
Wash Your Produce
Produce is often exposed to pesticides, herbicides, and other chemicals during growth and also exposed to chemicals in the plastic packaging/preservation of the foods during transportation. Washing your produce can help reduce your exposure; a great way to do this is one bulk wash! Once you get home from the grocery store, fill your sink with warm water and add 1 cup of distilled white vinegar. Let your produce soak for 10-15 minutes, and then rinse.
Choose Glass Tupperware Over Plastic
Porcelain or stainless steel are also other storage container options. But when it comes to storing food and avoiding endocrine disruptor exposure, limiting plastic use or avoiding plastic completely is best. There are a wide variety of less expensive glass containers at stores like big lots, Walmart, and Ikea.
Never Heat Anything in Plastic
When plastic is heated, the chemicals begin to leach into your food or drink. This applies to microwaving and leaving your plastic containers in hot environments, such as the car or outside on a warm day. It is recommended to switch to a glass container while heating and to avoid leaving plastic water bottles in cars!
If You Need to Use Plastic
Avoid plastics with the numbers 3 or 7 on them.
Avoid Fragrance in Ingredient Label
Commonly Found In:
Beauty Products (face, skin, nails, & hair)
Most scented products
Drink Filtered Water
A reverse osmosis filter works great to protect against EDCs. Check out EWG's water filter guide for the ins and outs of water filters!
Support Your Detox Organs:
It is tough to avoid EDCs 24/7, 100% of the time, and we have built-in protection systems that can help when exposed. Check out this article about how to support your detox organs daily!
Endocrine Society. (2019, November 20). Pfas Chemicals: Edcs contaminating our water and food supply. Endocrine Society. Retrieved September 12, 2022, from https://www.endocrine.org/topics/edc/what-edcs-are/common-edcs/pfas
Engeli, R. T., Rohrer, S. R., Vuorinen, A., Herdlinger, S., Kaserer, T., Leugger, S., Schuster, D., & Odermatt, A. (2017). Interference of Paraben Compounds with Estrogen Metabolism by Inhibition of 17β-Hydroxysteroid Dehydrogenases. International journal of molecular sciences, 18(9), 2007. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijms18092007
Environmental Protection Agency. (n.d.). EPA. Retrieved September 12, 2022, from https://www.epa.gov/ingredients-used-pesticide-products/atrazine
Hlisníková, H., Petrovičová, I., Kolena, B., Šidlovská, M., & Sirotkin, A. (2020). Effects and Mechanisms of Phthalates' Action on Reproductive Processes and Reproductive Health: A Literature Review. International journal of environmental research and public health, 17(18), 6811. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph17186811
Ohore, O. E., & Zhang, S. (2019, August 23). Endocrine disrupting effects of bisphenol A exposure and recent advances on its removal by water treatment systems. A Review. Scientific African. Retrieved September 12, 2022, from https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2468227619306969
Person, Monostra, M., & Monostra is a medical journalist and editor. He received his BA in Broadcasting from Montclair State University in 2011. Monostra has been in medical publishing since 2020. He is currently the Online Content Editor for Healio Endocrinology and Endocr, sports reporting and photojournalism. H. enjoys traveling with his wife. (2022, April 12). Greater exposure to PFAS endocrine-disrupting chemicals increases diabetes risk for women. Healio. Retrieved September 12, 2022, from https://www.healio.com/news/endocrinology/20220412/greater-exposure-to-pfas-endocrinedisrupting-chemicals-increases-diabetes-risk-for-women
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (n.d.). Endocrine disruptors. National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences. Retrieved September 12, 2022, from https://www.niehs.nih.gov/health/topics/agents/endocrine/index.cfm
What are parabens, and why don't they belong in cosmetics? Environmental Working Group. (n.d.). Retrieved September 12, 2022, from https://www.ewg.org/what-are-parabens