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What are Endocrine Disruptors?

The endocrine system in women and men

Endocrine disruptors are chemicals that may interfere with the production or activity of hormones in the human endocrine system. These chemicals may occur naturally or be manufactured. The term “endocrine disruptors” describes a diverse group of chemicals that are suspected or known to affect human hormones. Effects on human hormones can range from minor to serious depending on the specific endocrine receptor and the amount of exposure. Because these chemicals are found in products you use every day and you are exposed to many endocrine receptors at the same time, it is difficult to determine the public health effects of these chemicals.

The human endocrine system is responsible for controlling and coordinating many body functions, including the production of hormones. The human endocrine system includes the pancreas, pituitary, thyroid, adrenal, and male and female reproductive glands.

Endocrine disruptors interfere with the production, release, transport, metabolism, or elimination of the body’s natural hormones. They can mimic naturally occurring hormones, potentially causing overproduction or underproduction of hormones. They may also interfere or block the way natural hormones and their receptors are made or controlled.

9 Common Endocrine Disruptors

1. Personal Care Products
Such as shampoo, conditioner, lotions, cosmetics and other personal care products often include phthalates. These chemicals are involved in testicular cancer, low sperm counts, infertility in men and women. In 2002 a study by the Environmental Working Group detected phthalates in 75% of personal care products tested, noting major loopholes in United States federal law allow the cosmetics industry to put unlimited amounts of phthalates in many personal care products with no required testing, no required monitoring of health effects and no required labeling. In toothpaste, another endocrine-disrupting chemical called triclosan can be found. Switching to natural and/or homemade personal care products helps avoid exposure.

2. Drinking Water
Your drinking water may be contaminated with arsenic, chlorine and/or perchlorate which may disrupt your endocrine system. Drinking Spring Water is one of the best sources of good, alkaline nutrients.

3. Canned Foods
Some canned foods use bisphenon-A (BPA) even tho it is a known endocrine disruptor. BPA has been linked to a number of health concerns, particularly in pregnant women, fetuses and young children, but also in adults as well. Issues in adults include: structural damage to the brain, changes in gender-specific behavior and abnormal sexual behavior, hyperactivity, increased aggressiveness, impaired learning, early puberty, ovarian dysfunction, infertility, increased fat formation and risk of obesity, stimulation of prostate cancer cells, worsened immune function, increased prostate size, decreased sperm production. BPA coats 75% of cans in North American which means if you eat canned foods its likely a major source of BPA. Even BPA-free cans may not be safe as they are often coated with a similar chemical known as BPS. Buy products that come in glass bottles and jars rather than plastic or cans.

4. Mass Grown Produce
Pesticides, herbicides, and industrial runoff may coat your conventionally grown fruits and vegetables in endocrine-disrupting chemicals. As much as possible, buy and eat organic produce and free-range, organic foods to reduce your exposure to endocrine-disrupting pesticides and fertilizers.

5. Mass Produced Meat, Poultry and Dairy Products 
Mass produced meat, poultry and dairy products often involve antibiotics, hormones and other industrial chemicals that interfere with the endocrine system. Look for products that are free-range, organic and raised on small, local farms that avoid the use of such chemicals.

6. Kitchen Products
Plastic containers and non-stick cookware are hazards. The plastic containers may contain BPA that leach into your food, especially if the plastic is heated. Non-stick, stain-resistant and water repellent surfaces are also toxic and to be avoided.

When heated, non-stick cookware releases perfluorooctanoic acid, linked to thyroid disease, infertility, and developmental and reproductive problems. Healthier options include ceramic and enameled cast iron cookware, both of which are durable, easy to clean (even the toughest cooked-on foods can be wiped away after soaking it in warm water), and completely inert, which means they won’t release any harmful chemicals into your home.

7. Cleaning Products
Commercial cleansers for floors, toilets, oven, windows and such contain industrial chemicals that may throw your hormones out of whack. nonylphenol ethoxylates (NPEs), a common ingredient in laundry detergents and all-purpose cleaners, is banned in Europe and known to be a potent endocrine disrupter,11causing male fish to transform into females. It’s surprisingly easy to create your own cleaning products at home using different combinations of vinegar, baking soda, essential oils, and even coconut oil.

8. Office Products
Ink cartridges, toner, and other solvents common in office environments are another common source of endocrine-disrupting chemicals. Handle such products with care and minimize your exposure as much as possible.

9. Cash Register Receipts
Thermal paper has a coating that turns black when heat is applied (the printer in a cash register applies heat to the paper, allowing it to print numbers and letters). It also contains BPA, and research shows that handling this type of paper is enough to increase your bodily levels. A study in Analytical and Bioanalytical Chemistry found that of 13 thermal printing papers analyzed, 11 contained BPA. Holding the paper for just five seconds was enough to transfer BPA onto a person’s skin, and the amount of BPA transferred increased by about 10 times if the fingers were wet or greasy (such as if you’ve just applied lotion or eaten greasy food).

A Healthy Endocrine System is Key to Good Health

The endocrine system is like a well-constructed web of hormonal reactions that also propel a number of other actions and are influenced by factors in your health, lifestyle choices, and your daily stress levels. The endocrine system functions as the chemical messenger system in your body. Imagine your hormones needing written instructions to arrive at the place they’re supposed to. Whatever messages they receive, is ultimately how they react. Hormones like insulin, cortisol, estrogen, leptin, ghrelin, serotonin, testosterone, and many others are all affected by your diet, sleep habits, stress management abilities, weight, and health history. They also trigger responses within your body depending on the messages they’re given.