We’ve all heard it before “It’s just hormonal”…but is it really? Could it be the cumulative effect of the Dirty Dozen Endocrine Disruptors? Here’s a quick summary of the TOP 12 toxins from the Environmental Working Group.
1. BPA: Bisphenol A
Scary to think that a chemical used in plastics can mimic the naturally-occuring oestrogen in your body! It can wreak its havoc by tricking the body into thinking it’s the real McCoy ; it’s been linked to everything from breast and others cancers to reproductive problems, obesity, early puberty and heart disease.
What can you do? Choose fresh foods instead of canned as many food cans are lined with BPA. Avoid plastics marked with a “PC” for polycarbonate, or recycling label #7. Not all of these plastics contain BPA, but many do. You may need to double-check your plastic storage containers and definitely avoid heating any food in microwaves in any plastic containers.
Dioxins interfere with hormonal signalling in the body. Recent research has shown that exposure to low levels of dioxin in the womb and early in life can both permanently affect sperm quality and lower the sperm count in men during their prime reproductive years. Wow! Unfortunately these toxins last for a long-time and can accumulate both in the body and in the food chain. They are powerful carcinogens and can also affect the immune and reproductive systems.
What can you do? Dioxins are often a result of industrial processes and are often found in our environment and can contaminate animals, so eating less animal-food products may be one answer. Also avoid conventional sanitary pads/tampons as they often contain dioxins.
What’s the worst thing about this chemical, a herbicide? It causes the feminization of male frogs. What is it doing to our male population I wonder? It’s also been linked to breast tumors, delayed puberty and prostate inflammation in animals, and some research has linked it to prostate cancer in people.
What can you do? The simplest solution is to buy organic or grow your own without using nasty chemicals. It’s also found in water so drinking filtered water is a good idea too.
Quite simply, they can trigger the death of cells way ahead of their “use-by” date. Research identified that this was happening to testicular cells. Scary eh? Other studies have linked phthalates to hormone changes, lower sperm count, less mobile sperm, birth defects in the male reproductive system, obesity, diabetes and thyroid irregularities.
What can you do? Another reason to ditch plastic food containers if you haven’t already. Also found in children’s toys and plastic wrap made from PVC, which has the recycling label #3. Rather worryingly is the fact that some personal care products also contain phthalates, so read the labels and avoid products that simply list added “fragrance,” since this catch-all term sometimes means hidden phthalates. A really good recommendation is to check your personal care products with EWG’s Skin Deep database.
Would you like rocket fuel with your lunch?! Well, perchlorate a component in rocket fuel, contaminates much of our produce and milk, according to EWG and government test data. In your body it competes with iodine, which is vital for the thyroid gland to make thyroid hormones and as this gland regulates metabolism, could this chemical be thwarting your weight-loss attempts? Iodine’s also really critical for proper brain and organ development in infants and young children, so just imagine the knock-on effect on your kids’ well-being.
What can you do? Reduce the chemical-content of your drinking water with a reverse osmosis filter. It’s nigh on impossible to avoid perchlorate, but you can reduce its potential effects on you by making sure you are getting enough iodine in your diet.
6. PBDE’s – Fire Retardants
Another hormone-interfering chemical found in the breast milk of Swedish women as well as in wildlife. This is another chemical that can upset the functioning of the thyroid.
What can you do? PDBEs persist in the environment for a long time so they’re hard to avoid. However, the EWG recommends using a HEPA filter in vaccum filters to help limit the toxins in dust and to take care when replacing old carpets which may contain these chemicals in their padding.
Lead is toxic, causing harm to almost every organ system in the body. It’s been linked to a staggering range of health effects, including disrupting hormones, permanent brain damage, lowered IQ, hearing loss, miscarriage, premature birth, increased blood pressure, kidney damage and nervous system problems. It can also interfere with your body’s stress management system.
What can you do? Keep your home clean and well maintained. Crumbling old paint is a major source of lead exposure, so exercise caution when getting rid of it. A good water filter can also reduce lead in drinking water.
It’s hard to avoid this toxin as it is in our food and water. Eat enough of it and arsenic will kill you outright. In smaller amounts, arsenic can cause skin, bladder and lung cancer. It can also disrupt your hormones, particularly those that regulate how your body processes sugars and carbohydrates, which has been linked to weight gain/loss, protein wasting, immunosuppression, insulin resistance (which can lead to diabetes), osteoporosis, growth retardation and high blood pressure.
What can you do? Again, install a good water filter to lower arsenic levels.
Love sushi? Well be aware that mercury, a naturally occurring but toxic metal, gets into the air and the oceans and can thus contaminate seafood. Pregnant women are the most at risk from the toxic effects of mercury, since the metal is known to concentrate in the fetal brain and can interfere with brain development. It’s also known to bind directly to a hormone that regulates women’s menstrual cycle and ovulation, thus interfering with normal signaling pathways.
What can you do? For people who still want to eat (sustainable) seafood with lots of healthy fats but without a side of toxic mercury, wild salmon and farmed trout are better choices.
10. Perfluorinated Chemicals (PFCs)
Can’t cook without your non-stick pans? PFCs are used to make them “non-stick” but they are so widespread and extraordinarily persistent, that 99 percent of Americans have these chemicals in their bodies. One particularly notorious compound is PFOA which has been linked to decreased sperm quality, low birth weight, kidney disease, thyroid disease and high cholesterol, among other health issues.
What can you do? As hard as it sounds, avoid using non-stick pans as well as stain and water-resistant coatings on clothing, furniture and carpets.
11. Organophosphates pesticides
Quite simply these pesticides target the nervous systems of insects. So, there’s no surprise really to learn that they can have a detrimental effect on human health with exposure linked to effects on brain development, behaviour and fertility. They can also interfere with the way testosterone communicates with cells, lowering testosterone and altering thyroid hormone levels.
What can you do? Limit consumption of foods with elevated levels of pesticide residues. These are the Dirty Dozen.
12. Glycol Ethers
Great if you want to shrink testicles! This is one thing that can happen to rats exposed to these chemicals, commonly found in paints, cleaning products, brake fluid and cosmetics. I’m hoping that concerns you enough to look at the products your are using in your home and on your body. One study showed that children who were exposed to glycol ethers from paint in their bedrooms had substantially more asthma and allergies.
What can you do? Start by checking out EWG’s Guide to Healthy Cleaning and avoid products with ingredients such as 2-butoxyethanol (EGBE) and methoxydiglycol (DEGME).