Endocrine disruptors disrupt the endocrine system.

What is the endocrine system?

The endocrine system is a complex network of glands and hormones that control many of the body’s functions from conception through adulthood and into old age, including the development of the brain and nervous system, the growth and function of the reproductive system, as well as the metabolism and blood sugar levels. The female ovaries, male testes, and pituitary, thyroid, and adrenal glands are major members of the endocrine system. The endocrine glands, including the pituitary, thyroid, adrenal, thymus, pancreas, ovaries, and testes, release precisely measured amounts of hormones into the bloodstream that act as natural chemical messengers, traveling to different parts of the body in order to control and adjust many life functions.

What is an endocrine disruptor?

An endocrine disruptor is a synthetic chemical that fools the body by acting like a hormone and confuses the body, tricking the brain into thinking it is something it is not . When endocrine disruptor ‘s are absorbed into the body they either mimic or block hormones and disrupt the body’s normal functions. This disruption can happen through altering normal hormone levels, halting or stimulating the natural production of hormones, or changing the way hormones travel through the body, which affects the functions that these hormones control.

Endocrine disruptors trick the body into over-responding to the stimulus (e.g., a growth hormone that results in increased muscle mass), or responding at inappropriate times (e.g., producing insulin when it is not needed). Other endocrine disrupting chemicals block the effects of a hormone from certain receptors (e.g. growth hormones required for normal development). Still others directly stimulate or inhibit the endocrine system and cause overproduction or underproduction of hormones (e.g. an over or underactive thyroid).

Are children at greater risk from endocrine disruptor exposure?

Yes. Because endocrine disruptors affect the development of the body’s vital organs and hormonal systems. Infants, children and developing fetuses are more vulnerable to exposure. And as was the case with DES, parents’ exposure to certain chemicals may produce unexpected and very tragic — effects in their children, even decades later.

Don’t chemicals have to be safe to be allowed on the market?

No. The majority of the more than 2,000 chemicals that come onto the market every year do not go through even the simplest tests to determine toxicity. Even when some tests are carried out, they do not assess whether or not a chemical has endocrine interfering properties. Often there are more then one chemical used making so many combinations of toxins it would be impossible to test them all.

What are some known Endocrine disruptors?

Chemicals that are known human endocrine disruptors include diethylstilbesterol (the drug DES), dioxin, PCBs, DDT, and some other pesticides. Many chemicals, particularly pesticides and plasticizers, are suspected endocrine disruptors.

Here are some common Endocrine disruptors:

  • BPA: BPA is found in products we use everyday such as plastic beverage bottles, food containers, plastic dinnerware, thermal paper receipts (shiny like the ones from your ATM machine), and the lining of many canned foods. BPA can displace estrogen in the human body, basically taking up space where estrogen is supposed to be working. Side effects include early puberty, reproductive dysfunction, onset of type 2 diabetes, and an increased risk of breast and prostate cancers.
  • Triclosan: Triclosan is an antibacterial and antifungal agent. It’s found in deodorant, toothpaste, mouthwash, antibacterial hand soaps and lotions, cleaning supplies and shaving cream. Triclosan can cause thyroid disruption (think weight gain) and can raise testosterone levels in the body. Do you know any women who have anger or aggression issues? This could be part of the cause. Side effects associated with Triclosan include steroid and thyroid hormone imbalance, and behavioral problems in children such as ADD/ADHD. Women are frequent users of antibacterial hand wipes and gels, and many carry a small bottle of it on their key chains.
  • 4-Nonylphenol : 4-Nonylphenol is another endocrine disruptor that binds to estrogen receptors and affects the immune system and nervous system. It’s commonly found in laundry detergents and pesticides. 4-Nonylphenol can be absorbed through your skin from your clothes and in conventional produce. (another reason to eat organic)

What can I do to reduce my risk of exposure?

Endocrine disruptors are all around us and in us. Understanding what they are, where they are and how to reduce your exposure is your first step in avoiding these toxins.

  • Educate yourself about endocrine disruptors, and educate your family and friends. Buy organic food whenever possible.
  • Download the shopping guide for pesticides in your produce www.foodnews.org
  • Drink from glass or stainless steel water bottles and purchase other prepared beverages in a glass bottle http://www.takeyausa.com/products/glass-water-bottles/classic-glass-water-bottle-16oz.html
  • Switch to a natural and safe hand sanitizers like Clean Well www.cleanwelltoday.com
  • When accepting a receipt, fold inward so as not to touch the shiny side
  • Switch from commercial brand laundry soaps to safer lines that have no chemicals like Poppy’s Naturally Clean www.poppysnaturallyclean.com or Ecos brand http://www.ecos.com/
  • Buy frozen foods instead of canned foods. Eden canned foods. are BPA free with the exception of their tomato products http://www.edenfoods.com/articles/view.php?articles_id=178
  • Avoid using pesticides in your home or yard, or on your pet. Use baits or traps instead. Find natural ways to get rid of bugs. http://www.ehow.com/list_7451914_natural-ways-rid-bugs.html
  • Find out if pesticides are used in your child’s school or day care center and campaign for non-toxic alternatives. If you eat fish from lakes, rivers, or bays, check with your state to see if they are contaminated.
  • Use glass for storing and heating food. Avoid heating food in plastic containers, or storing fatty foods in plastic containers or plastic wrap. http://www.pyrexware.com/index.asp?pageId=14 
  • Do not give young children soft plastic teethers or toys. They can leach potential endocrine disrupting chemicals.
  • Support efforts to get strong government regulation of and increased research on endocrine disrupting chemicals.
http://www.epa.gov/endo/pubs/edspoverview/whatare.htm http://www.nrdc.org/health/effects/qendoc.asp