Endocrine disruptors are chemicals that interfere with the normal functioning of the endocrine system, a complex network that regulates hormone production in the human body.
These disruptors can mimic or block hormones, disturbing the body's typical processes, such as growth, development, and reproduction. They are prevalent in various everyday items, including plastic bottles, metal food cans, detergents, flame retardants, food, toys, cosmetics, and pesticides. The health effects of exposure to endocrine disruptors are diverse and potentially severe, therefore it's important to understand and manage these risks.
1. BPA and More Commonly: BPS
It is important to note that although BPA-free plastics are now widely available, many of these products may still contain a variety of compounds with hormone disrupting properties.
Some of the most commonly found estrogenic compounds in plastic are bisphenol A (BPA), bisphenol S (BPS), and phthalates. Studies have shown that exposure to these compounds can disrupt endocrine function and have been linked to a wide range of health issues such as infertility, reproductive problems, obesity, and certain cancers.
Especially avoid heated or food "marinating" in plastic.
Meaning skip out on tv dinners, microwaved plastic food items, bottled water, packaged meats, and as many other one-time plastic wrapped foods that touch plastic before entering your body.
Avoid canned foods, for decades these steel or aluminum cans have been plastic-lined. Opt to purchase canned foods in jars, or save even more money by using your own using mason jars.
Try this instead: Check out your local butcher, seafood market, farmers market, or any farm-to-table type of businesses nearby. The more items you can get locally, chances are the less plastic it will touch.
Another thing many of us do not realize is the use of e-waste plastic's or even recycled plastics -- these items contain more toxins than just plastic alone.
This can include black plastic kitchen cooking utensils, to-go containers, coffee stirrers, coffee lids, and even tops on re-useable hot drink container lids. What is worse, most of time we use black plastic in combination with hot items.
Black plastics are frequently made from recycled electronic equipment, which contains flame retardants and other toxic substances that act as hormone disrupters. Even at very low levels, these toxic chemicals can cause serious reproductive and developmental problems, poisoning the brain and kidneys, disrupting human thyroid function, affecting development, and causing long-term neurological damage.
Recycling systems struggle to detect black plastic, leading to more waste ending up in landfills, thereby contributing to environmental pollution. Lastly, when black plastic breaks down, either in landfills or in the environment, it can release harmful chemicals, such as estrogen, into the surroundings, posing potential health risks to both humans and wildlife.
Try this instead: Use wooden/stainless steel in all of the situations that you can, specifically with hot liquids and foods. Request alternatives (or bring your own) if your local businesses that only offer their products in black plastic containers.
2. Less Red Meat and Eliminate Non-Organic Foods
The consumption of meat can inadvertently increase estrogen levels in the body, largely due to the industrial practices employed in livestock rearing. Often, animals meant for meat production are administered hormones including estrogen to accelerate their growth and increase their size.
However, these substances do not remain confined to the animal's body. They seep into the environment through animal waste, and can contaminate soil and water resources, leading to widespread estrogenic pollution. This poses a risk not only to wildlife, which can experience reproductive and developmental disruptions due to these hormones, but also to human populations that rely on these water sources. Besides this, the farming practices involving the use of estrogenic pesticides and fertilizers further exacerbate this issue.
When we consume this meat, we indirectly intake these hormones, potentially disrupting the natural hormonal balance in our bodies. Furthermore, fat cells in meat can produce estrogen, and a high-fat diet, which often includes significant meat consumption, may lead to increased estrogen levels. It is therefore important to choose lean, hormone-free meat varieties when possible, and balance our diet with plant-based foods to maintain hormonal equilibrium.
Non-organic produce may not contain estrogen per se, but they can often contain pesticides that act as hormone disrupters. These pesticides can mimic or interfere with the body's hormones, including estrogen, leading to potential imbalance and disruption. Many of these chemical compounds are known as xenoestrogens, or foreign estrogens, and they are structurally similar to the naturally occurring estrogen. This allows them to bind to the same receptors in the human body and interfere with the normal functioning of the hormonal system.
Therefore, while non-organic produce itself does not contain estrogen, the use of certain pesticides in non-organic farming practices can introduce substances with estrogen-like effects to these foods. It is another reason why opting for organic, pesticide-free produce can be a healthier choice for maintaining hormonal balance.
Try this instead: Choose organic hormone-free meats and vegetables. Be aware that even some organic vegetable/fruit options in the grocery store still have pesticides. Be sure to thoroughly clean before consumption. If possible, switch to other organic food choices as well.
3. Vote With Your Dollar, Buy Hormone-Free Clothing
Did you know that in 1993 a study was done that showed Polyester underwear fabric caused sperm-count to plummet and higher chance of miscarriage?
Similarly, in 1992 a study by The National Institutes of Health did a study about how polyester underwear is a 100% contraceptive for men. How alarming, that today in many affordable clothing stores it's actually difficult to find polyester-free options.
Polyester clothing has a profoundly negative impact on the environment for a variety of reasons as well. To start, polyester is a petroleum-based product, meaning its production is reliant on the extraction of crude oil, a non-renewable resource.
Sadly, it's not only polyester. It's best to avoid as many synthetic fabrics as possible, due to the many chemicals used in the process to create them. Not only that, but they contribute to the "circle of hormonal imbalance" in our environment when the toxins come back to us downstream.
Synthetic fabrics to avoid are polyester, rayon, lyocell, spandex, nylon, acetate, acrylic, and any recycled-plastic fabrics.
Look for cotton, silk, hemp, leather, wool, linen, merino, cashmere, alpaca, flax, and even nettle.
If you're looking for an option to gradually change your clothing choices, change out anything that directly touches your skin when you sweat first. This can include underwear, socks, bras, tops, and nighttime wear. Keep in mind, many inexpensive nighttime wear can also contain flame retardants.