Infertility, PMS, endometriosis, cancer...the list goes on. Hormone disruptors pose massive concern for women’s health. And it's up to us to protect ourselves.
What are hormone disruptors?
Hormone disruptors lurk in so many everyday products we all use like plastic food containers, cleaning products, skin care, hair care, cosmetics, fragrances, clothing, mattresses, electronics, furniture, toys, magazines, pesticides, water bottles, and even the paper receipts are printed on. In essence, your contact with these chemicals may occur through skin, diet, water, and air. They are almost impossible to avoid at this point. But we can and should try to mitigate them. Our wellness depends on it.
Over the last 70 years, more than 80,000 chemicals have been released into the environment because of human activity. Through research, we have learned some of these chemicals pose a huge risk to our hormone health. So, naturally, the authorities immediately banned those that are potentially dangerous, and everybody lived happily ever after. Right?
Nope! Sadly, that’s not what happens when profits are at stake. Endocrine disruptors are still omnipresent. Removing them from the market would have a huge economic impact on the chemical industries. Of course, this is a very short-term way of thinking, given that human health is on the line, and the socio-economic burden of endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs) related health effects is estimated at between 46 and 288 billion dollars per year. Europe has banned over 1300 ingredients taking more progressive steps to protect our health. But the U.S. has only banned 30.
The regulation of chemicals has been inadequate and full of loop-holes. The more economically important a chemical is, the more difficult it is to ban or restrict its use. For example, this is noticeable with BPA, one of the most high production volume chemicals in the world, which is widely used in so many products and therefore is very hard to restrict. This is partly due to strong lobbying from the chemical industry. Due to inadequate health and safety laws, more than 85% of these human-created chemicals have never been assessed for possible effects on our health.
How they effect your body
Even low doses of endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs) are likely unsafe. Although several scientists had already raised the alarm on EDCs, it was a WHO report of 2012 that definitively acknowledged the scale of the problem. These chemicals can massively damage the hormonal balance, can cause infertility, obesity, thyroid disease, high cholesterol, diabetes and hormone-related cancers and can lead to learning and behavioral disorders in children. Even low amounts of exposure can be detrimental. Our bodies are sensitive!
You may remember learning in biology class that our bodies are run by a network of hormones and glands that regulate everything we do. Most often, we think about this system—the endocrine system—in the context of puberty, but it actually plays a starring role in all phases of life. There is growing evidence that these chemicals interfere with the body’s carefully regulated hormonal system and they artificially increase the levels of hormones in the body, or impede their proper and essential breakdown. These pollutants trick our hormones into acting in different ways than they’re naturally supposed to behave— and so they’re called ‘endocrine disruptors’.
We’re exposed to these chemicals daily.
Okay! So what can I do about it!?
1. Use safe cook wear (no non-stick pans!)
The main reason cook wear is a concern is due to the xenoestrogens they can potentially contain. Xenoestrogens are chemicals that mimic estrogen in the body, which can mess with your hormone levels and interfere with cell growth, repair, energy production, estrogen dominance, thyroid function, reproduction, and fetal development.
Commonly, non-stick cookware is coated with PTFE (Polytetrafluoroethylene, often referred to as Teflon) or silicon. Telfon includes multiple toxic chemicals such as PFOA, PFOS, PTFE, PFAS, and GenX. Multiple studies suggest that these toxins cause severe health complications. Of course, you won’t find any of these acronyms advertised.
- You want to avoid pans that use Teflon (PTFE), PFAs and toxic ceramic-coated cookware
- The safest cookware materials are cast iron, stainless steel, 100% non-toxic ceramic, glass, and enamel-coated cast iron (cast iron with a glass coating)
2. Avoid canned foods with toxic lining
For decades, most canned foods have linings made of epoxy resin based on bisphenol A, or BPA, making food the primary route of our exposure to this toxic chemical. A robust body of scientific studies shows BPA readily migrates from cans into our food. It shows that even very small levels are harmful to neurological, cardiovascular, reproductive, endocrine and other biological systems.
Pushed by consumer concern, manufacturers have moved to replace BPA with alternative chemicals. According to the Can Manufacturers Institute, today about 95 percent of food cans are made without BPA-based linings, using a variety of other coatings, or polymers. But it’s unclear whether these new liners are safer than BPA.
- Avoid canned foods (substitute fresh, frozen, or dried food for canned)
- Never heat food in the can (transfer it to a pot or pan for stove-top cooking or a glass container for microwaving)
3. Say “no thanks” to receipts
Thermal paper used in the vast majority of receipts often contain bisphenol A (BPA), a mass-produced chemical that has well-recognized endocrine-disrupting properties. Research showed that, after handling thermal paper receipts, people could absorb BPA through the skin and it could enter the bloodstream.
- Just pass on a receipt when offered
- Do not crumple the paper to throw them in the trash, play with them, or write notes on them (in short avoid contact as much as possible)
4. Avoid plastic containers and packaging
Most plastics contain Phthalates or BPA which are hormone disruptors. They are used in hundreds of products, including many food and beverage containers and plastic wraps. Bisphenol A (BPA) is one of the best known and most pervasive hormone disruptor. In humans, it is linked to reduced egg quality and other aspects of egg viability in patients seeking fertility treatment. Although BPA was banned in children’s products such as baby bottles, it’s still used in many water bottles and plastic containers. People are exposed to these hormone disruptors when they leach into foods or water. They are released when containers are microwaved, have exposure to sunlight or to acidic foods (such as tomatoes).
Check out the EWG’s BPA product list to check whether a food or beverage’s package contains BPA. The EWG has revealed 16,000 Foods with toxic chemical in its packaging. Look for alternative options in EWG’s Food Scores.
- Try to buy food in glass containers
- Store leftovers in glass containers
- Use glass or metal water bottles (don’t drink from plastic water bottles)
- Avoid plastics marked with a “3”, “PC”, “V”, “PVC” or recycling label #7
- Avoid plastics that do not explicitly state BPA-free
- Never microwave food in plastic (only use glass)
- Cut back on fast food, which often comes in PFAS-treated wrappers and food packaging
5. Only use safe skincare
Never assume it’s safe as so much of our skincare contains toxins that will be absorbed by your body. You have to read the label or buy from places that does that lift for you. Buy products that avoid using the ingredients on Credo’s The Dirty List®. If you’re unsure which beauty products are free from hormone disruptors, then a good place to start is by shopping at a clean beauty retailers such as Credo Beauty or Goop.
- Avoid products that contains parabens (parabens are a controversial ingredient and can be found in many every day beauty products)
- Avoid products that list phthalates as an ingredient
- Don’t buy skincare in plastic packaging
- Avoid products with “fragrance” as an ingredient (”fragrance” can mean it contains artificial fragrances which often contain toxin compounds)
- Buy from clean retailers like Credo Beauty or Goop
6. Buy organic
Eating clean can have the biggest impact on your health as it helps you avoid many common toxins. It’s foundational to good hormonal health. Eat organic when possible. Many pesticides are designed to be toxic to pests’ nervous or reproductive systems and there are similarities between insect and human endocrine systems. It’s no secret at this point that pesticides have detrimental effects on humans disrupting our endocrine systems.
Buy organic produce (use EWG’s Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce™, which can help you find the items that have the fewest pesticide residues)