Hormone Disruptors: Everything You Need to Know & More

Written by Tela Kayne

Who’s banning Bisphenol A (BPA)? Europe? Canada? United Arab Emirates? China? US?
Answer: Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. NO!!!

Hormone Disruptors | BPA in Canned FoodThese other countries have banned the use of hormone disruptors such as BPA because of their unproven safety and the myriad of studies that show potential harm. The United States however, still refuses to regulate toxic substances such as BPA. Sarah Janssen, a scientist from the Natural Resources Defense Council writes:

Instead of protecting vulnerable populations, corporate interests have continued to trump public health and common sense in the U.S.  BPA is a chemical known to mimic estrogen and which has been linked to increased risk of cancer, altered brain development, early puberty and other metabolic changes. It really shouldn’t be in our food supply.

It’s time for all of us to start demanding changes in our chemical legislation and stop letting the chemical industry make decisions on our behalf. But in order to be advocates for a cause, we must first understand the issue at its core.

What are Hormone Disruptors?
Hormone disruptors, also known as endocrine disruptors, are fast becoming one of the biggest threats to human health. The endocrine system secretes hormones in response to environmental stimuli and orchestrates developmental and reproductive changes. Hormones are the body’s chemical messengers and regulate various bodily systems to maintain balance. Hormone disruptors, on the other hand, are substances that mimic hormones and can bring about long term changes that disrupt the balance of the body’s various systems.

What substances contain potential hormone disruptors?

  • DDT & Other Pesticides – DDT is one of the most well-known synthetic pesticides.  It was banned by the US in 1972, but DDT is a persistent organic pollutant that is extremely hydrophobic and strongly absorbed by soil. Depending on conditions, its soil half life can range from 22 days to 30 years. Other pesticides, such as triclosan, are currently still in use and are of concern.
  • Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCB’s) – PCB’s were banned in 1979 but still remain an environmental toxin due to the total global production amount used (over 1.5 million tons) and it’s ability to persist in the environment over time.
  • Bisphenol A (BPA) – BPA is a plastic found in baby bottles, the lining of food and formula cans, polycarbonate plastic with the recycle #7.  BPA is currently being banned by many countries and is already banned in Canada, United Arab Emirates, Europe and China.
  • Polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDE’s) – PBDE’s are flame retardants used in children’s pajamas, mattresses, sofas and other furniture.  Walmart recently made the decision to ban PBDE’s.
  • Phthalates (such as PVC) – PVC is used to soften plastic.  Phthalates are used in shower curtains, outdoor table cloths, pharmaceutical coatings on pills, detergents and surfactants, packaging, children’s toys, modeling clay, some personal care items such as perfume, eye shadow, moisturizer, nail polish, liquid soap, and hair spray – recycling code #3

Why are these hormone disruptors bad?
Health effects attributed to endocrine disrupting compounds include a range of reproductive problems (reduced fertility, male and female reproductive tract abnormalities, and skewed male/female sex ratios, loss of fetus, menstrual problems); changes in hormone levels; early puberty; brain and behavior problems; impaired immune functions; and various cancers.

  • DDT is linked to diabetes, developmental and reproductive toxicity and cancer.  A recent study found that 30 out of 37 widely used other pesticides tested by the group blocked or mimicked male hormones.  And most of these pesticides are actually fungicides applied to fruit and vegetable crops, including strawberries and lettuce. Traces of the chemicals remain in foods.
  • Researchers have linked developmental exposure to BPA to reproductive harm, increased cancer susceptibility, and abnormalities in brain development.
  • PBDE’s bioaccumulate in blood, breast milk, and fat tissues.Published studies express concern because exposure to PBDE’s impairs development of the nervous system and has shown. PBDEs have also been shown to have hormone-disrupting effects, in particular, on estrogen and thyroid hormones. Studies have also shown that even a single dose administered to mice during development of the brain can cause permanent changes in behavior, including hyperactivity.
  • In studies of rodents exposed to certain phthalates, high doses have been shown to change hormone levels and cause birth defects.

Ways to Avoid:

  • Reduce use of plastics in favor of glass and natural fibers (organic).
  • Buy BPA-free
  • If you must use plastic in the kitchen, avoid heating foods in it.  Heat can cause the toxins in the plastic to leach into your food.
  • Switch to organic cotton sleepwear and a healthy mattress, such as Naturepedic.
  • Look for phthalate-free body care products.
  • Avoid using pesticides around the home and instead use an integrated pest management (IPM) approach or consider keeping spiders, ladybugs and even bats around to help control pests,  naturally.  There are also botanical based pesticides available that are safer than the toxic alternative.
  • Avoid conventional detergents and instead opt for organic or natural detergents such as Seventh Generation.
  • Eat organic!

How do you avoid harmful toxins such as hormone disrupting substances in your home?  Please share by leaving a comment!

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WHAT’S THE BIG DEAL ABOUT PHTHALATES? Phthalates are everywhere from cosmetics to plastic items that people use every day.

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