Top 12 Endocrine Disruptors
In the world today, endocrine disruptors have inundated women's and men's bodies and driven hormonal excesses and deficiencies to the extreme. These disruptors invade the body and terrorize the hormonal balance as they lock into the estrogen receptor sites. From the shampoo in the shower to the make-up in the drawer and the pesticides in our morning fruit, the stage is set for xenoestrogen dominance. The Environmental Working Group recently released their "dirty dozen" list for the 12 worst endocrine disruptors. Read on to find out what these are and how to avoid them!
Not found in nature, man-made toxins are estrogen imposters that mimic the effects of the real hormone but over stimulate cellular activity to an uncontrollable extent. In 1991, the field of xenoestrogens was first introduced to the world.
Xenoestrogens adversely affect the internal balancing mechanisms of the body, raising the estrogen burden and with it potential risks for the development of endocrine disorders. Xenoestrogens accumulate in the fat tissues of our bodies and have the capability of locking into our own estrogen's receptor sites. This deems them to be highly toxic and detrimental to our hormonal environment.
Xenoestrogens are making their way into our bodies on the pretense of being biological estrogen. These xenoestrogens are present in our soil, water, air, food supply as well as in personal care and household products.
The Environmental Working Group recently released their "dirty dozen" list for the 12 worst endocrine disruptors:
- Bisphenol-A (BPA)
BPA mimics the effects of estrogen in the body but in a way that causes complete chaos in the body. BPA has been linked to breast and others forms of cancers as well as obesity, early puberty and heart disease. The most recent government studies have shown that 93% of adults have BPA in their bodies.
Action Step: Avoid canned foods lined with BPA. Decrease your exposure to receipts as much as possible. Also avoid plastics marked with PC (polycarbonate).
Recent research has shown that exposure to low levels of dioxin as early as in the womb can both permanently affect sperm quality and lower the sperm count in men during their prime reproductive years. This can lead to reproductive issues later in life. Dioxins have also been shown to build up in the tissues of both the body and certain foods. They have been shown to be powerful carcinogens and can alter the immune and reproductive systems.
Action Step: Avoiding Dioxins is virtually impossible as the food supply is widely contaminated due to industrial release into the air. Eliminating or decreasing your intake of meat, fish, milk, eggs and butter will help to reduce exposure as these foods are the most densely contaminated.
Atrazine is an herbicide that is used on the majority of corn crops in the US and also therefore ends up contaminating drinking water. Researchers have found that exposure to even low levels of atrazine can turn male frogs into females that produce completely viable eggs. YIKES! Atrazine has also been linked to breast tumors, delayed puberty and prostate inflammation and cancer.
Action Step: Buy organic produce as much as possible. Drink only clean filtered water.
(For help finding a suitable filter, check out EWG's buying guide:www.ewg.org/report/ewgs-water-filter-buying-guide/)
Phthalates are often found in plastics have been shown to trigger "death induced signaling". This translates into increased cell death, particularly in the testes. Further studies have also linked phthalates to hormone changes, lower sperm count, less mobile sperm, birth defects in the male reproductive system, obesity, diabetes and thyroid irregularities.
Action Step: Avoid plastics as much as possible! PVC's with the recycling label #3 found in plastic food containers, children's toys and plastic wraps are notoriously the worst! Also avoid products with the ingredient "fragrance" as this can be a catch all phrase for hidden phthalates.
The Environmental Working Group and government test data has confirmed that perchlorate, a chemical used in rocket fuel is a common contaminant in much of our produce and milk supply. Perchlorate disrupts thyroid function by competing with the nutrient iodine which is needed to make thyroid hormones.
Action Step: An Osmosis filter can help to reduce the levels of perchlorate in drinking water. There is no way to completely avoid perchlorate in our foods. Making sure that dietary iodine levels are sufficient in the body can help to lessen the effects of perchlorate on our thyroid function.
- Fire retardants
Polybrominated diphenyl ethers or PBDEs were found in the breast milk of nursing mothers in a Swedish study in 1999. Further studies have shown that the levels have been doubling every 5 years since 1972! These chemically devious fire retardants have been contaminating the bodies of people and wildlife around the world. Measures to phase out some PBDEs have been taken however due to the persistent nature of these chemicals they will continue to disrupt our health, lower IQ's and causes thyroid dysfunction for years to come.
Action Step: Decreasing exposure is difficult but some steps have been shown to lessen the effects. Vacuum cleaners with a HEPA filter can cut down on toxic-laden house dust. Avoid reupholstering foam furniture and take proper precautions when replacing old carpet (the padding underneath may contain PBDEs).
(Find more tips at: www.ewg.org/pbdefree/)
Lead is a heavy metal that is still kicking around even though after decades ago it was realized how dangerous it can be for our health. The effects of lead in the body are not exclusive to one area but rather almost every organ system in the body. Lead has been linked to a overwhelming array of health effects, including permanent brain damage, lowered IQ, hearing loss, miscarriage, premature birth, increased blood pressure, kidney damage and nervous system dysfunction. The body's major stress system also takes a hit with lead as the hormone signaling becomes disrupted and the effects of stress are magnified.
Action Step: The main source of lead is still crumbling old paint which continues to be an issue in older homes. Carefully removing all traces of this will dramatically lessen exposure. Drinking water contamination is also a factor. Drinking clean filtered water is crucial to lessen contamination.
Mercury is considered a toxic metal and enters our food supply from the burning of coal. It enters our air and oceans and mercury-contaminated seafood therefore becomes our major source of dietary ingestion. The effects of mercury in women are particularly detrimental. Menstrual cycles can become disrupted as mercury binds to the hormone that regulates cycles and ovulation. Mercury is also is known to be particularly toxic to pregnant women as it concentrates in the fetal brain and can interfere with brain development.
Action step: When consuming seafood choose (sustainable) seafood such as wild salmon and farmed trout which are better choices with less contaminants.
In small and accumulating amounts arsenic can cause skin, bladder and lung cancer. Arsenic is found in much of our drinking water supply. Arsenic can also interfere with normal hormone functioning in the processing of sugar and carbohydrates. This disruption can trigger weight issues, immune suppression, diabetes, osteoporosis and cardiovascular issues.
Action Step : Using a water filter that lowers arsenic levels is the best way to decrease contamination.
- 10. Perfluorinated chemicals (PFC's)
PFC's are used in non-stick cookware and have been shown to cause decreased sperm quality and cause low birth weight, kidney disease, thyroid disease and high cholesterol. It is estimated that 99% of North Americans have these chemicals lurking in their bodies. Some PFC's are so persistent because they do not breakdown in the environment- ever!
Action Step: Avoid non-stick pans like the plague! Also avoid stain and water-resistant coatings on clothing, furniture and carpets.
- Organophosphate pesticides
Organophosphates are commonly used pesticides which target the tissues of insects. Many studies have linked organophosphate exposure to effects on brain development, behavior and fertility. These pesticides have also been shown to affect testosterone levels and thyroid function.
Action Step: Eat organic as much as possible! Avoid the Dirty Dozen unless organic (Apples, Celery, Sweet bell peppers, Peaches, Strawberries, Nectarines, Grapes, Spinach, Lettuce, Cucumbers, Blueberries and Potatoes).
- Glycol ethers
Glycol ethers are commonly found solvents in paints, cleaning products, brake fluid and cosmetics. These chemicals have been shown to damage fertility or the unborn child when exposed. Studies also indicate a rise in asthma and allergies in children who are exposed to glycol ethers in the paint of their bedrooms.
Action Step : Start by checking out EWG's Guide to Healthy Cleaning (www.ewg.org/guides/cleaners/) and avoid products with ingredients such as 2-butoxyethanol (EGBE) and methoxydiglycol (DEGME).