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Endocrine disrupting chemicals

February 25, 2020

Written by our Naturopath, Aimee Lewis

What are endocrine disrupting chemicals? 
Endocrine disruptors are chemicals which interrupt the bodies normal hormonal balance to produce a range of adverse health outcomes (Gore et al., 2015). 
Hormones are chemical messengers which control many important processes throughout the whole body. Endocrine disruptors work by either mimicking or blocking the bodies natural hormonal signals, which disturbs our hormonal balance and may contribute to disease (Sifakis, Androutsopoulos, Tsatsakis & Spandidos, 2017).
Endocrine disruptors are found in many places such as: plastics, non-organic produce, pesticides and herbicides, skincare, makeup, cleaning products, non-filtered water, fragrances and cookware (Sifakis, Androutsopoulos, Tsatsakis & Spandidos, 2017). 

What are the risks?

  • Obesity
  • Diabetes
  • Thyroid problems 
  • Foetal reproductive and neural defects
  • Behavioural issues 
  • Reproductive disorders such as early puberty, infertility, irregular cycles, premature ovarian failure, endometriosis, fibroids and adverse pregnancy outcomes. 
  • Hormone sensitive cancers such as breast, ovarian, endometrial & prostate cancer (Gore et al., 2015).

Luckily, there are many simple changes we can make in our daily routine to reduce our exposure to endocrine disrupting chemicals (Stuart, 2018). Endocrine disruptors can have a large impact in tiny amounts (Sifakis, Androutsopoulos, Tsatsakis & Spandidos, 2017). Therefore, even choosing a few strategies from the list below may significantly reduce your risk of harm (Stuart, 2018). Gradually try to incorporate as many as possible overtime. 
“However you do it, and however long it takes, is fine. The point is you’ve started” (Stuart, 2018, pp. 28)
The first step is to be aware of chemicals on labels which should be avoided.
 These chemicals include: 

  • Bisphenol A – plastics, food packaging, toys, the lining of canned goods (Stuart, 2018).
  • Phthalates – plastics, cosmetics, medical tubing, personal care products, fragrance  (Gore et al., 2015). 
  • Atrazine – herbicide found on commercial crops (Gore et al., 2015).
  • Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) – plastics, adhesives, paints, inks (Gore et al., 2015).
  • Triclosan – hand washes and acne face washes (Gore et al., 2015).
  • Petroleum-based polymer derivatives (PEG) – cosmetics, moisturisers, makeup remover (Stuart, 2018). 
  • Parabens – deodorant & skin care (Stuart, 2018)
  • Triphenyl phosphate – nail polishes (Stuart, 2018)
  • Methylisothiazolinone – preservative in personal hygiene and beauty products (Stuart, 2018)
  • Benzaldehyde,benzocaine, benzophenone, benzyl alcohol 
  • Phenoxyethanol
  • Resourcinol – hair dyes, face & beauty products (Stuart, 2018)
  • Benzophinone – susccreen, lipstick, nail polishes
  • Sodium laurel sulfate, sodium laureth sulfate (Stuart, 2018)
  • Triclosan – personal care products  (Stuart, 2018)

Top tips: 
Reduce exposure to plastic  

  • Swap plastic containers and drinking bottles for stainless steel or glass options. 
  • Even avoid plastic labelled ‘BPA free’ as this usually contains other harmful chemicals. 
  • Never warm up any food in plastic packaging or containers.  
  • If using plastic food containers, avoid storing fatty foods which may absorb harmful chemicals (Stuart, 2018). 

Choose organic produce where possible such as fruits, vegetables, eggs, poultry and meat. 

  • Non-organic produce is often contaminated with harmful chemicals from fertilisers, pesticides and herbicides. Certified organic produce must contain limited amounts of these chemicals, therefore reducing toxic exposure (Environmental Working Group, 2019). 
  • If buying all organic produce is out of your budget, consider prioritising foods commonly consumed from the ‘dirty dozen’ list. These fruits and vegetables have been determined to have the highest toxic residues. These include: Strawberries, spinach, kale, nectarines, apples, grapes, peaches, cherries, pears, tomatoes, celery, potato, hot peppers (Environmental Working Group, 2019). 
  • The ‘clean 15’ are fruits and vegetables that generally have less exposure to pesticides and herbicides  – avocados, sweet corn, pineapple, frozen peas, onions, papaya, eggplant, asparagus, kiwi, cabbage, cauliflower, cantaloupe, broccoli, mushrooms, honey dew melon – https://www.ewg.org/foodnews/clean-fifteen.php (Environmental Working Group, 2019).

Use all natural skincare that is free from nasty chemicals 

  • Look for products with the EWG verified mark – these products uphold strict toxin criteria from the environmental working group. 
  • Look for products that only contain plant products, and no long-fancy chemical names 
  • Shop for personal care and home care products at local health food stores
  • If you are unsure about the safety of a certain product or chemical on a label, visit the environmental working group ‘skin deep page’ to search its database www.ewg.org/skindeep

Shop online for natural beauty and cleaning products at:

“Be proud of the little change you’re going to make today. Be proud of the plans you’re laying out as time, circumstance and energy permit” (Stuart, 2018, pp. 29)

Environmental Working Group. (2019). EWG’s 2019 shopper’s guide to pesticides in produce. Retrieved from https://www.ewg.org/foodnews/clean-fifteen.php
Gore, A. C., Chappell, V. A., Fenton, S. E., Flaws, J. A., Nadal, A., Prins, G. S., … Zoeller, R. T. (2015). EDC-2: The Endocrine Society’s Second Scientific Statement on Endocrine-Disrupting Chemicals. Endocrine reviews36(6), E1–E150. doi:10.1210/er.2015-1010
Sifakis, S., Androutsopoulos, V. P., Tsatsakis, A. M., & Spandidos, D. A. (2017). Human exposure to endocrine disrupting chemicals: effects on the male and female reproductive systems. Environmental toxicology and pharmacology51, 56-70.
Sturt, A. (2019). Low Tox Life. NSW, Australia: Murdoch Books. 

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