Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals (EDCs) and Hormone Health

EDCs linked to diabetes, infertility, cancer, and more

Endocrine disrupting chemicals, or EDCs, are chemicals that act the same as, block, or change the way that natural hormones act in the body. Many researchers believe that the growing use of EDCs over the past 20 years has contributed to the rising number of people with diseases such as diabetes, infertility, cancer, among other conditions.

These chemicals may be found in the air, water, and soil around the world as well as things used in everyday  life day, including children’s toys, cleaning products, lotions, shampoos, and cosmetics.

While it is not clear how many EDCs there are, common EDCs include:

  • DDT (dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane) and other pesticides
  • Bisphenol A (BPA) used in certain children’s toys, plastic bottles and food containers, food can linings, and cash register receipts
  • Phthalates in beauty products and plastics
  • Flame retardants used in certain furniture and floor coverings
  • Triclosan used in antibacterial products

While some EDCs, like DDT and PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyl), are no longer used, these chemicals may stay in water and ground for decades. Some EDCs are stored in fat cells for years, and may be passed on to children during pregnancy or when breastfeeding. Other EDCs like BPA do not build-up in the body, so you can reduce your exposure by avoiding products containing BPA. Unfortunately, BPA is used in so many products that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have estimated that more than 96% of Americans have this chemical in their bodies.

What EDCs Do
Endocrine disrupting chemicals change the way hormones in the body are supposed to work. Like natural hormones, even small levels of EDCs can affect body functions.

Hormones are made by endocrine glands such as the ovaries, thyroid gland, pituitary gland, testes, pancreas, hypothalamus, and adrenal gland. Hormones are messengers in the body that trigger responses to help control a variety of functions, including how your body uses food (metabolism), growth, reproductive system, healing, blood sugar levels, mood, body temperature, and blood pressure. When hormones don’t act as they should, many normal body functions are changed, which can lead to diseases over time.

Endocrine disrupting hormones have been linked to the following conditions:

  • Birth defects
  • Brain and behavioral disorders
  • Cancer
  • Diabetes
  • Early start of puberty in girls
  • Early end of periods (menopause) in women
  • Heart disease
  • Higher risk for diabetes and heart disease in children born to women exposed to ECDs during pregnancy
  • Infertility (problems getting pregnant)
  • Low testosterone levels (which plays a role in growth, muscle strength, brain function, bone density, and heart health)

Tips to Avoid EDCs

  • Use glass food storage containers, and choose bottles and sippy/snack cups made of stainless steel, silicone, or glass
  • Buy organic foods
  • Drink filtered water
  • Buy phthalate-free beauty products and children’s toys
  • Avoid nonstick pans as well as stain and water-resistant coatings on clothing, furniture, and carpets
  • Avoid cooking or microwaving in plastic containers
  • Buy furniture made without flame retardants
  • Buy PVC-free shower curtains, flooring, raincoats, and outdoor furniture
  • Check the label of canned foods to look for those with BPA-free liners

Companies that make BPA-free canned foods include Amy’s, Eden Foods, Bionaturae canned tomatoes, Bumble Bee tuna, Earth’s Best, Farmer’s Market, Health Valley, Hain Pure Foods, Westbrae Natural, and many others.

  • Trader Joe’s lists which foods are in BPA-free packages
  • Whole Foods have banned register tape made with BPA


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