Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals: What They Are and What You Can Do About the Situation
We learned something new this week and we want to share, but be prepared, it’s not pretty. Today we’ll be talking about EDCs.
According to the EPA, an Endocrine Disrupting Chemical (EDC) is “an exogenous agent that interferes with synthesis, secretion, transport, metabolism, binding action, or elimination of natural blood-borne hormones that are present in the body and are responsible for homeostasis, reproduction, and developmental process.”1 In normal people words, EDCs make your hormones wacko and can interfere with healthy hormonal processes including reproduction, growth and development, and the general healthy upkeep of bodily systems affected by hormones…aka all of them. Yikes!
If you’re like us, you probably want to know where these EDCs are and how to stay away from them. Unfortunately, we are exposed daily through contaminated water, air, food, and soil. With EDCs popping up at every turn it’s no wonder so many of us deal with conditions which have been linked to them including women’s reproductive disorders such as PCOS, endometriosis, uterine fibroids, and more. And the gentlemen don’t get a free pass either, EDCs have been linked to poor sperm quality, male infertility, and male urogenital structural abnormalities.1 And if you don’t want kids and you’re thinking, “My private parts look fine, work well, and I’m not planning to make a baby so, so what?” Slow your roll there my friend because EDCs are also linked to thyroid problems as well as many types of cancers, and nobody is OK with that.1 Gah! What can we do?!
Learn to Recognize Them
The first step in avoidance is recognition, right? I mean, it’s pretty hard to avoid something if you don’t know what it looks like. Let’s go over some of the most common and pervasive EDCs and what products they’re found in:
• Brominated Flame Retardants (BFRs) are commonly used in sofas, mattresses, clothing, and electronics because they help keep our homes from burning down if something catches fire. While this is good fire safety, it’s not good hormone safety.1
• Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs) were officially banned by the EPA in 1979, but products containing them are still widely found in homes predating the ban. PCBs can be found in products ranging from insulation, to caulking, to paints, and more.1
• Phthalates are a chemical found in many kinds of plasticware for the kitchen including cups, plastic wraps, and water bottles. These chemicals have been found to have detrimental effects on thyroid health and male reproductive health, so many companies have voluntarily stopped using them. Plastics that contain phthalates can be identified by the number “3” and the letter “V” or by the letters “PVC” in or near the recycling symbol.1
• Bisphenol A (BPA) is one EDC we’ve probably all heard of. It’s linked to reduced egg viability in humans and has been banned from children’s products. However, it’s still used in food containers such as plastic water bottles and food cans.1
• Some of the most common EDCs to watch out for are Phthalates and the most common of these are: BBP, DBP, DEHP, DEP, DiDP, DiNP, DnHP, and DnOP. All of these compounds have been banned both in the United States and in the European Union, however many products, especially children’s products still contain them if they predate the ban and/or come from a country that has not banned them.1
• Pesticide and Herbicides both commonly contain EDCs and can accumulate in food, water, air, and soil.1
• Per- & Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFASs) are water and oil repellants that are commonly used in cookware such as pots and pans, and in textiles such as upholstery fabrics and carpets.1
Where Can I Go That’s Safe?
Unfortunately, nowhere is completely safe from EDCs, not even the most remote places on earth are untouched by them now.1 However, there are things you can do to reduce their impact on your body.
• Gain more control over your home environment. Go through your home and identify sources of EDCs such as cookware, cleaning products, gardening products, and toys, then remove them from your home if you can. Make sure that you don’t bring unnecessary EDCs into your home by researching things before you buy them. For instance, choose to get organic food for items that are commonly sprayed with chemicals which contain EDCs such as the “dirty dozen,” buy BPA-free canned foods, and check the type of plastic each product is made from before you bring it home. Additionally, you can buy environmentally friendly cleaning products and bath products to ensure that being clean does mean being swathed in hazardous chemicals.
• Increase your antioxidant and phytonutrient intake to support your body’s cells and buffer them against the stress of our toxic world. Eat lots of berries, leafy greens, spices, herbs, and beans which are all packed with stress-fighting, health-supporting powers. Replace your unhealthy snacks with healthy ones such as swapping Doritos for some 100% olive oil potato chips or switching out fruit gummies for a bowl of berries or an orange.
• Sweat it out. Exercise is a wonderful way to help the body detox. Moving our bodies helps to move fluids around in our lymph systems and muscle tissues. In biology world, moving fluids usually means cleaning things…kind of like a washing machine. So next time you hit the gym and things get tough, just remember you’re helping your body to stay squeaky clean on the inside.
• Get your beauty rest. Most of us know we need to sleep more, but many of us don’t realize how beneficial it can be to get the rest we need. Fatigue causes cellular stress throughout the body because our bodies work on healing while we sleep. Less sleep means less healing and more lasting cellular damage. This is part of the reason sick and injured people sleep so much, their bodies are trying to heal. So, if you were looking for an excuse to sleep in this weekend, here it is!
• If you’re able, contact your local representative or other governmental officials and let them know how you feel about EDCs. Maybe we can get more of them banned and thus reduce the number of EDCs we’re exposed to. Let your voice be heard!
We know this may have been very stressful to learn about but try not to worry or freak out. Yes, we live in a toxic cesspool of chemicals that’s gotten completely out of control but obsessing over it won’t help your health. Use your energy to make smart choices about factors you can control and let the rest be what it is. We can still live happy, wholesome lives even knowing the ugly truth about EDCs.
In parting, remember that eating healthy, whole foods, and lots of plants foods, is one of the simplest, safest, and most effective things we can do to promote good health in our bodies. As with every preventative/restorative measure though, sometimes these changes alone are not enough to help our bodies function the way we want or need them to. If you are struggling with health problems, please contact your doctor or other healthcare provider such a Naturopathic Doctor, Dietitian, or Mental Health Professional to see if they can offer appropriate guidance and care. We at Wholesome Story believe that healthy communities require community effort, so we advise you to keep your healthcare community aware and involved in your journey as you pursue better health.
1. Endocrine Society. Endocrine-disrupting chemicals. Endocrine Society. https://www.endocrine.org/advancing-research/scientific-statements/edc. Published August 26, 2021. Accessed February 10, 2022.