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After attending a seminar on Female Hormonal Disorders I delved into the current research into plastics and the chemicals found in them. The World Health Organisation calls them endocrine-disrupting chemicals and in 2012 stated “disease risk from EDC’s may be significantly underestimated.” There are more than 800 chemicals that disrupt hormone function and the vast majority have never been tested.
- These chemicals are most dangerous during developmental periods: conception, pregnancy, early childhood, puberty, and menopause.
- They are associated with cancers, behavioral and developmental issues, early puberty and fertility problems.
What is an Endocrine Disrupting Chemical?
An EDC is a chemical found outside the body that mimics or alters the endocrine (hormone) system and causes health problems in a person, their offspring and even future generations. Endocrine disrupters exert their effect at levels far below what is considered to be harmful. It is the timing and duration of exposure and not the dose that determines what impact these chemicals have on the body. Often, these health problems don’t become apparent until years down the track.
A 2012 report release by the World Health Organisation1 says many endocrine-related diseases and disorders are on the rise across the world, including low sperm count in men, the incidence of genital malformation such as non-descending testes in baby boys, adverse pregnancy outcomes such as low birth weight and pre-term bubs, behavioral disorders associated with thyroid malfunction, endocrine-related cancers (breast, endometrial, ovarian, prostate, testicular and thyroid), obesity and type 2 diabetes.
EDCs were discussed at the International Congress of Andrology held in Melbourne in 2013 and in particular the link between these chemicals and the negative impact on male fertility and testicular cancer.
In the last 12 months the amount of research papers published on this topic has doubled! A recent review of 91 studies stated that BPA exposure is linked to endometriosis, fibroids, PCOS, breast cancer, miscarriage, low libido and low sperm counts in men2.
But don’t get sucked in to the “BPA free” marketing hype either! A study3 found that nearly every sample they tested leached chemicals that had clear estrogenic activity. And in the BPA free samples, they leached MORE estrogenic chemicals than in the BPA containing products. What this shows, is that there are many more chemicals with estrogenic activity, not just BPA.
The six most common EDC:
- Triclosan is found in anti bacterial hand washes and toothpastes. It interferes with thyroid function
- Phthalates are found in soft toys, fragrances, body care products and are particularly related to fertility issues and genital malformation in boys
- BPA – studies show BPA is found in 95% of pregnant women4. It makes plastics hard and is found in the lining of canned food as well as many plastics. BPA is linked to breast & prostate cancer, infertility, early puberty in girls and obesity
- Brominated flame retardants – found in infant sleepwear, mattresses and furniture
- Perfluorinated chemicals – found in nonstick cookware, stain repelling products such as scotchguard, they are linked to early menopause and behavioral disorders
- Pesticides – found in foods, gardening products such as weed formulations and insect repellants
Tips to reduce EDC exposure
- Avoid canned food, buy fresh produce. A 2011 study found that just 3 days of eating fresh, unpackaged foods reduces your BPA levels by 66% 5
- Eat organic food as much as possible. A study on children showed that five days of eating organic food significantly reduced their levels of toxic pesticides6.
- Avoid fragrances in any product
- Avoid storing food in plastic, instead use glass, stainless steel, Pyrex or ceramic
- Use stainless steel water bottles
- Avoid antibacterial products, use soap and water
- Buy wooden toys instead of plastic
- Take your shoes off at the door – many pesticides as well as lead clings to shoes