Endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) are chemicals or mixtures of chemicals that interfere with the way the body’s hormones work.
The endocrine system is a network of glands and organs that produce, store and secrete hormones. When functioning normally, the endocrine system works with other systems to regulate your body’s healthy development and function throughout life. EDCs are substances in the environment (air, soil or water supply), food sources, personal care products and manufactured products that interfere with the normal function of your body’s endocrine system.
The body’s endocrine tissues produce essential hormones that help regulate energy levels, reproduction, growth and development, as well as our response to stress and injury.
Mimicking naturally occurring hormones such as estrogen and androgen, EDCs lock on to receptors within a human cell and block the body’s own hormones from binding with it, potentially wreaking havoc on our health.
EDCs can disrupt many different hormones, which is why they have been linked to numerous adverse human health outcomes, including alterations in sperm quality and fertility, abnormalities in sex organs, endometriosis, early puberty, altered nervous system and immune function, certain cancers, respiratory problems, metabolic issues, diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular problems, growth problems, neurological and learning disabilities and more.
Perhaps the most concerning of all are the effects of high EDC exposures during fetal development and childhood, which can have long lasting health effects since there are periods where hormones regulate the formation and maturation of organs. Early life exposures have been linked to developmental abnormalities and may increase the risk of a variety of diseases later in life. Some EDCs have been found to cross the placenta and become concentrated in the fetus’ circulation whilst others can be transferred from mother to infant through breast milk.
EDCs have also been linked to neurological damage and behavioural problems such as attention-deficit / hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), Autism and loss of IQ according to The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology, a medical journal.
EDCs are found in thousands of everyday products, ranging from plastic and metal food containers to detergents, building materials, flame retardants, toys and cosmetics. They can also be found in the air that we breathe, our soils and water sources. EDCs can enter the body through the skin.
|Common EDCs||Used In:|
|DDT, Chlorpyrifos, Atrazine, 2, 4-D, Glyphosate||Pesticides|
|Lead, Phthalates, Cadmium||Children's products|
|Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and Dioxins||Plastics and food storage materials|
|Brominated Flame Retardants, PCBs||Electronics and building materials|
|Phthalates, Parabens, UV Filters||Personal Care Products, Medical Tubing, Sunscreen|
|Triclosan||Antibacterial soaps, some toothpastes|
|Perfluorochemicals||Textiles, clothing, non-stick food wrappers, microwave popcorn bags, old Teflon cookware|
Myth – There is a safe, permissible limit for toxic chemicals (below which they are harmless)
Fact – Not true, as some herbicides are able to mimic and replace estrogens in the body even in the very low parts per trillion concentration range. Some studies suggest that bisphenol A (BPA) in plastics and parabens in cosmetic products can have a greater hormone mimicking action as concentrations decrease.
Myth – You must swallow an EDC in order for it to enter your system
Fact – Your skin is a living organ and not a barrier to toxic substances. In many cases, the dermal (skin) route for chemical absorption is faster and more harmful because absorbed chemicals can enter circulation without being metabolized.
Myth – If it’s offered in my grocery store or advertised on TV, I can be sure it’s safe
Fact – Many chemicals enter the market without any safety testing at all. Product testing is rarely able to simulate chronic, low exposure over a long period, which is typically how humans are exposed. Their potential for harm may not be realized, sometimes for decades.
Myth – I have been using cleaning supplies, face washes, and laundry detergents with chemical compounds for years with no adverse effects.
Fact – It is true that many products are not harmful when used properly and sparingly. It is impossible to know, however, that a product is truly “safe.” Choosing products without known EDCs is a proactive way of safeguarding your health and the health of your family.
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Endocrine disruptors like BPA and phthalates lurk in everything from cleaning products to fragrances. Our bodies are run by a network of hormones and glands (the endocrine system) that regulate everything we do.
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