Everyone knows that the endocrine system controls almost everything we do with our bodies. This complex network of hormones significantly impacts our development, reproduction, metabolism, immunity, and behavior.
However, we are constantly exposed to harmful chemicals that can disrupt our hormones. From plastics and fragrances, these synthetic substances are everywhere and are known as endocrine disruptors and can affect us during every stage of our lives.
So what are endocrine disruptors? Can we avoid them and keep our hormones safe? Although everyday products may contain these harmful chemicals, it does not mean you cannot do anything about them.
Endocrine Disruptors: Everyday Chemicals That Disrupt Your Hormones
What Are Endocrine Disruptors?
Endocrine disruptors prevent the endocrine system, which controls hormone production, from operating normally. They mimic natural hormones and bind to hormone receptors, affecting the immune, neurological, reproductive, and developmental processes.
For example, endocrine disruptors can mimic estrogen, leading to overstimulated estrogen receptors and altering hormone signaling. These chemicals can also decrease testosterone production, reduce sperm count, and affect male fertility. They can also interfere with hormonal metabolism, leading to imbalances and other health effects.
Where Are Endocrine Disruptors Found?
Endocrine disruptors are everywhere. Some chemicals found in plastics, pesticides, and personal care products are examples of endocrine disruptors. They can also be found in food, water, and other consumables. Also, many everyday products, such as plastic containers, metal food cans, and detergents, contain endocrine disruptors.
Here are the typical sources of endocrine disruptors:
- Plastic products and packaging, such as water bottles and food containers
- Pesticides and herbicides used in agriculture and gardening
- Personal care products such as shampoos, lotions, and makeup
- Cleaning products, such as household cleaners and laundry detergents
- Food and drinks stored in plastic containers or cans lined with bisphenol-A (BPA)
- Furniture, textiles, and building materials treated with flame retardants
- Electronic devices, such as smartphones and computers
- Tap water contaminated with industrial chemicals or heavy metals
- Processed foods, which contain high levels of preservatives and additives
How Do Endocrine Disruptors Affect the Body?
Because hormones are the vital chemical messengers of the body, playing a massive role in almost every aspect of normal functioning, an affected endocrine system due to hormone disruptors may lead to various detrimental health effects.
Endocrine disruptors that damage sex hormones, like estrogen and testosterone, may induce reproductive problems, such as decreased fertility, decreased sperm count, and menstrual irregularities. Also, since these hormones are vital to intellectual capacity and cognitive health, endocrine disruptors may affect learning and brain development.
Endocrine disruptors have also been linked to thyroid, prostate, and breast cancers through some mechanisms. Therefore, exposure to these chemicals can stimulate the growth or metastasis of tumors in individuals with cancer.
Moreover, endocrine disruptors can disrupt the function of the thyroid glands by interfering with the hypothalamic-pituitary-thyroid axis or the thyroid hormone receptors. This disruption can result in hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism, affecting metabolism and growth.
What Are Some Typical Endocrine Disruptors?
|Bisphenol A (BPA)||found in plastic products, such as food containers|
|Dioxins||a byproduct of paper bleaching and herbicide manufacturing that is discharged into the environment during waste burning and wildfires.|
|Perchlorate||found in drinking water as a byproduct discharged by the pharmaceutical industries|
|Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS)||found in non-stick pans, paper, textile coatings, and firefighting foams.|
|Phthalates||found in medical devices, cosmetics, children’s toys, and food packaging|
|Phytoestrogens||Natural components of plants, which are present in soy products like tofu or soy milk|
|Polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDE)||used to make flame retardants for home furnishings, carpets, and foam furniture.|
|Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCB)||used in hydraulic fluids, heat transfer fluids, lubricants, plasticizers, and electrical machinery like transformers|
|Triclosan||found in some personal care and anti-microbial products, such as liquid body wash|
Ways to Avoid Exposure to Endocrine Disruptors
Endocrine disruptors are a growing area of research and concern, so it is critical to take precautions to limit exposure to these chemicals. People can take action by selecting goods made with safer alternatives, filtering tap water, and following a healthy diet.
Some other strategies to minimize exposure to endocrine disruptors include:
- Choose organic food. Wash your produce thoroughly, or peel it if organic food is unavailable.
- Choose basic foods. Pick foods with little to no packaging and little processing.
- Choose products without fragrances. Fragrances may contain endocrine disruptors, yet manufacturers are not required to disclose what chemicals they use to make fragrances.
- Wash your hands. You can get rid of any chemicals you may have ingested by doing this. Pick the most basic soap you can find-one without a scent or antibacterial features.
- Avoid plastics. Check how many plastic items you can get rid of from your home. Keep food in stainless steel or glass containers.
- Keep it tidy. Regularly vacuuming and sweeping dust with a damp cloth can lower the number of chemical particles in your home.
- Choose basic cleaners. Use baking soda, vinegar, and other inexpensive cleaners as often as possible.
Hormones are vital to our bodies, but endocrine-disrupting chemicals are everywhere to cause harm. What is important is that we must know whether our lifestyle habits and everyday products may contain harmful chemicals and take prompt action.
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