Little Things Matter




What are Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals?

Endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs), also known as hormone disruptors, are chemicals that disrupt or interfere with the hormones in our bodies. They can disrupt how hormone communication by blocking the pathway between a natural hormone and a receptor, causing a gland to make too much or too little of a hormone, or mimicking a hormone, causing the body to overreact or react at the wrong time.

Common EDCs are bisphenol A (BPA), dioxins, perchlorate, perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), phthalates, phytoestrogens, polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDE), polychlorinated biphenyls (PCB), and triclosan.

No one knows exactly how much microplastic a child takes in. But several studies indicate that a child today starts absorbing microplastics into their body even as a fetus. This gives us cause for concern.” 

                         —Kam Sripada, PhD


Where are Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals found?

EDCs are natural or manufactured chemicals. They can be found in:

  • Children’s toys, games, and accessories, such as baby bottles
  • Pesticides
  • Furniture, such as sofas and mattresses
  • Oil based paint
  • Electronics
  • Clothing
  • Batteries
  • Building material
  • EDCs are found in plastic bottles and containers, liners of metal food cans, and detergents.
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Health impact of EDCs

EDCs can impact our health at all stages of life.
Phthalates are a group of synthetic chemicals used products, such as nail polish, retain scents in scented products sold, lubricating oils, personal care products, and used to make plastics more durable. Exposure to phthalates can occur through many sources, which include household dust, diet, and personal care products. Several studies have shown positive associations between exposure to phthalates in utero and adverse health outcomes in children. Phthalates can restrict the production of testosterone, a hormone that is critical for male development. Boys exposed to higher phthalates in utero are more likely to have anatomical change in their reproductive organs called phthalate syndrome in laboratory rats. Phthalates may play a role as underlying risk factor to preterm birth. Pregnant women exposed to phthalates have a higher risk of preterm delivery.

Perfluoroalkyl and polfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are widely used and highly persistent chemicals. PFAS molecules are comprised of carbon- fluorine bond therefore the chemicals do not degrade easily in the environment. They are used to make clothes, carpets, firefighting foam, and used to keep food from sticking to packaging or cookware, etc. PFAS is mainly found in blood of humans and animals and are present at low levels in food products. They are known to cause immunotoxic effects. Research shows that developing children’s adaptive immune system is particular vulnerable to immunotoxicity during infancy. The vulnerability is greatest during the first 6 months after birth.

Heavy metals are essential to life but can become toxic through accumulation on organisms. Sources of heavy metal exposure include mining, industrial production, pesticide production, oil refineries, untreated sewage sludge, etc. Heavy metals, such as cadmium, lead, and mercury are known reproductive toxicants. Occupational workers are exposed to high levels of heavy metal exposure. 

Dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDT) is a modern synthetic insecticides created in the 1940s. It was used to combat malaria, typhus, and other insect born human disease. Many women were heavily exposed in utero in the 1960s due to widespread use of DDT. To date, DDT exposure persists and is used in Africa and Asia. Currently, these individuals are reaching the age of heightened breast cancer risk. Previous studies have found an association between DDT exposures in utero with an increased risk of breast cancer in young women and possible association with aggressive tumors

Natural chemicals found in lavender and tea tree oil are endocrine disruptors. Persistent exposure to lavender oil and tea tree oil caused premature breast development in girls, and abnormal breast development in boys.

Ways to reduce and avoid EDCs

The primary changes in eliminating EDCs is enacting policies by governmental agencies and corporations to stop production of EDCs as an ingredient.


Ways to avoid exposure to EDCs:

  • Wash hands frequently, especially, before eating.
  • Choose foods that are less processed and avoid food packaging
  • Choose organic foods when possible; do not use pesticides in and around your home.
  • Avoid using plastic ware. If you use plastic serving ware, don’t wash them in a dishwasher or heat them in microwaves.
  • Avoid canned foods.
  • Use personal care and cleaning products without fragrance, phthalates, or parabens.
  • Dust and vacuum frequently, and use a wet mop for surfaces.

Suggested reading & research articles

Prenatal exposure to endocrine disrupting chemical mixtures and infant birth weight: A Bayesian analysis using kernel machine regression. Environmental research195, 110749. 

Researchers observed that organochlorine compounds (OCs) and metal mixtures were associated with decreased birth weight among those participating in the Maternal- Infant Research on Environmental Chemicals (MIREC) study.

Author: Hu, J., et al. 2021

Read the full study

This study concluded that developing adaptive immune system is vulnerable to immunotoxicity during infancy, specifically during the first 6 months after birth, Where PFAS exposure are impacted by breastfeeding.

Journal of immunotoxicology14(1), 188–195.

Author: Grandjean, P., et al, 2020

Read the full article…

Researchers found strong associations between a few EDCs and human health outcomes across the lifespan.

The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology, Vol 8, Issue 8

Author: Kahn, L.G., et al, 2020

Read the full article…

Case Reports and Endocrine-Disrupting Chemical Activities. This case series reported cases of premature thelarche of which resolved due to the cessation of lavender containing fragrance exposure commonly used in Hispanic communities. The Journal of clinical endocrinology and metabolism104(11), 5393–5405.

Author: Ramsey, J.T., et al, 2019

Read the full article…

Other facts You might Find Interesting...

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PBDEs  are toxic chemicals found in common household products and can have significant impact fetal brain development. 

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Microplastics  result from plastic breaking down into fine particles often containing hazardous toxins. They exist throughout the environment.

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Air pollution  is a major risk factor for heart disease, the leading cause of death worldwide. We can’t escape it, it’s all around us. 

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PFAS chemicals are known as “forever chemicals” because they never completely break down, leaving them in our soils, our water and our bodies.

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Pesticides can cause short-term adverse health effects as well as chronic adverse effects that can occur months or years after exposure.

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Allergic disorders have risen dramatically over the last 30-40 years as has our understanding of what causes them and the toxic chemicals that have the greatest impact.

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Endocrine disrupting chemicals are found in many common household products and can increase the risk of many diseases.

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Allergic disorders have risen dramatically over the last 30-40 years as has our understanding of what causes them and the toxic chemicals that have the greatest impact.

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Over a billion children live at extremely high risk for climate change events that can lead to disease and death.

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