Endocrine disruptors cause major problems in your body, so you do your best to avoid them. You buy organic foods, thoroughly wash your produce before eating it, and clean your home with “green” cleaners.
These are great steps, but there are unexpected places endocrine disruptors may be lurking. Keep reading to learn where they are hiding and how to avoid them.
What are Endocrine Disruptors?
Endocrine disruptors (or ED for short) are chemicals that block or mimic our natural hormones – havoc for the delicate natural balance of our body. ED’s have already been linked to fertility problems, autoimmune disease, and certain types of cancer.
You can learn more about endocrine disruptors here and the most common endocrine disruptors here.
So where are these endocrine disruptors hiding?
Flame Retardant Clothing and Furniture
Flame retardant chemicals were thought to be a modern marvel.
Couch cushions, mattresses and even kids PJ’s proudly proclaim they are flame retardant on the tags.
Sounds great – right?
Not so much – flame retardants are a known carcinogen. They were banned in the 1970’s because of toxicity concerns. Why did they bring them back??
Flame retardant chemicals are used in flammable clothing such as polyester. I purchase cotton clothing (especially PJ’s) for my children to avoid exposure.
New mattress smell is really all the endocrine disruptors off gassing into your home. Then you put your face on it for 8 hours straight!
There are two eco friendly bed options I’ve found without all the chemicals – Intellibed and Saatva.
Be cautious when replacing carpeting and flooring as well. They outgas after installation – releasing endocrine disruptors into the air in your home.
It is scary since the flame retardant chemicals are showing up everywhere – the air, the dust in our homes, in food and most alarming – in our bloodstream.
It’s important to regularly detoxify your body to keep these chemicals from building up in your body and causing adverse health problems. Read labels and ask questions to limit your exposure.
Personal care items (soaps, lotions, deodorant and toothpaste)
They are are often loaded with endocrine disruptors. But you only put them on my skin, right? You don’t ingest them.
The ingredients still get into your body, even though you don’t ingest them.
Think about a birth control patch or a nicotine patch – they work by absorption through the skin. “The patch begins to work immediately…”
Do you still think what we put on our skin just stays on your skin?
Just how much gets absorbed is still under scrutiny. You can read differing views here and here.
Avoid common endocrine disruptors in personal care items like alcohols, parabens, DEA, MEA, TEA, ureas, petroleum, glycols, sulphates, phthalates and phosphates.
Pick the product with the most impact, first. I made the transition to natural products a few at a time.
It’s tricky and confusing. Claims of natural and organic products – yet they still have sneaky and questionable ingredients.
My favorite store-bought brands are Alba Botanica, Kiss My Face, Burt’s Bees, Nature’s Gate and Babyganics.
I make all my personal care items – but it took years to get here. I have slowly made the transition to all homemade products.
If you’re not a fan of making your own, there are plenty of people out there who will make them for you (Including me – just ask).
My favorite is a shampoo is a bar of shampoo soap (yes it is different than the soap you use on your body). It gives me a foamy lather and keeps my hair touchably soft. Through trial and error I’ve come up with a recipe I love – and my hair loves it too.
Cosmetics and beauty products
Along the same lines as personal care items, cosmetics are absorbed by our skin.
Take nail polish, for example. Did you know most nail polish contains formaldehyde (the same stuff they embalm dead bodies with)? I talk more about nail polish I use in this article.
Anti-aging creams and potions sound great. Yet the ingredients have not been tested for safety.
The American Cancer Society States:
Very little information is available on long-term health impacts of most cosmetic ingredients or cosmetic products. Source: American Cancer Society
But they do testing don’t they? If they are tested, it is typically for irritation or allergic reactions.
For drugs, the FDA requires that new products be shown to be safe and effective before they are allowed to be sold. This is not the case for cosmetics. Although the FDA requires that cosmetics be safe, it does not have the authority to require companies to test their cosmetic products (except some color additives) before they are put on the market. Source: American Cancer Society
If you think the FDA will keep you safe from these toxic ingredients – think again!
The FDA has little to no control over what goes into your personal care products. Ingredients are blindly added to personal care products without safety testing. And if the product is deemed unsafe – the FDA can’t recall it. WHAT?!?!
That is crazy. You need to educate and protect yourself.
Prescription medications are another surprising source of endocrine disruptors.
A big one for women are birth control pills. Birth control pills are hormones – that’s how they work. They come with a long list of side effects. Increasing your risk of certain types of cancer and stroke.
“…The risks of endometrial and ovarian cancer appear to be reduced with the use of oral contraceptives, whereas the risks of breast, cervical, and liver cancer appear to be increased…” Source: Cancer.gov
Medications and supplements (yes, natural supplements too) are often coated in two popular endocrine disruptors – diethyl phthalate (DEP) and dibutyl phthalate (DBP).
Why? DEP and DBP help control the release of active ingredients.
Read labels carefully and make sure you’re not ingesting these endocrine disruptors inadvertently.
If you have kids, you know they put everything in their mouth. While they explore the world through their mouth in early years – parents worry what their children will be exposed to as a result.Just how safe are those toys your little one puts in their mouths? It all depends.Most toys are made of plastic – plastic made in China.
Many plastic toys contain Phthalates, a known endocrine disruptor. A good rule of thumb, if a new toy has a strong new plastic smell – it probably contains phthalates.
Phthalates make plastic toys more flexible instead of brittle. Phthalates off gas over time, releasing endocrine disruptors into the air – the air your child is breathing.
It’s a good reason to buy used toys for your children, avoiding the most prominent off gassing period. It won’t eliminate the problem altogether, but will greatly reduce it.
Or avoid plastic toys as much as possible.
Non stick pans (Teflon)
Teflon nonstick pans were all the rage when they came out. Food that slides out of the pan with ease, no more eggs sticking to the pan…They sold themselves.
Teflon is the trademark name for a synthetic polymer called polytetrafluoroetheylene (PTFE), that is used to cover metal pans. Teflon is the DuPont trademark name.
Until we discovered the chemical used to cover the pans was dangerous.
While many people incorrectly believe that ingesting the Teflon chips is dangerous, it is actually the fumes from heating the pan to a high temperature.
The Environmental Working Group conducted a study in 2003
…In just two to five minutes on a conventional stove top, cookware coated with Teflon and other non-stick surfaces could exceed temperatures at which the coating breaks apart and emits toxic particles and gases. Soure: EWG
So think again if you think you can just do your best to cook at low temperatures.
I previously had hard anodized pans – little did I realize they are covered with a non-stick coating. Yikes!
I made the switch to stainless steel pots and pans, cast iron pans, and porcelain coated fry pans (that act similar to non-stick without the chemicals). I also use my stainless steel pressure cooker regularly.
While I debated getting high end All Clad stainless steel cookware, the price tag was out of my range.
I found a great set tri-ply set from Tramontina for the same price as one All Clad pot. They are high end pans without the pricetag – I love them.
Metal Food cans and Plastic storage containers
BPA is commonly used to coat the inside of cans. BPA is an endocrine disruptor and leaks into the food inside the can.
Acidic foods such as tomatoes tend to leach more BPA from the can than other foods.
Buy food in glass containers, frozen or fresh.
Manufacturers have replaced the BPA in many cans with a similar chemical, unfortunately with similar health concerns.
Try to avoid plastic containers as well. We used to use plastic storage containers in the fridge for leftovers. We have made a complete transition to glass.
I have not looked back – even with little kids we have only chipped a few containers, none has broken in the several years we have had them.
Plus glass comes clean easily and does not stain like plastic does. Major plus for keeping them looking clean.
And PLEASE DO NOT microwave your food in a plastic container. It leaches plastic into your foods. If you use a microwave, place your food on a regular plate or glass container.
These are the glass storage containers we use. I have a few different sets – I prefer the square and rectangular shapes since they fit in my cabinets without wasted space.
I also recommend limiting the amount of plastic wrap and plastic storage bags that you use.
What’s The Next Steps
I urge you to start in one area of your life to eliminate endocrine disruptors. If you try to do it all at once, you will be completely overwhelmed and give up.
I found success by focusing on one area at a time, just a few products at a time.
The most important step is to START!
Here are a few suggestions of where to start:
In your Kitchen:
- Non-stick pans to Stainless steel, cast iron or porcelain coated pans
- Plastic storage containers to glass or stainless steel storage containers
- Reduce the amount of foods you buy in plastic or cans – instead buy fresh, frozen or in glass
Personal Care Items/Beauty Products:
- As your current items run out replace them with products without endocrine disruptors
- My favorite brands are Babyganics (they are not just for babies – I LOVE their dishsoap), Burt’s Bees and Nature’s Gate
- Look to switch to a mineral based makeup – there are lots of natural options out there with great coverage (IQ Natural is the brand I use when I wear makeup)
- Explore buying or making handmade soaps and lotions (I make them – send me a note if you are interested in purchasing some)
- Choose a natural nail polish
- Switch to a natural deodorant, unfortunately I never found that worked well to share. I’d suggest making your own or buying a homemade version. It works better than any deodorant I’ve ever used, natural or chemical laden.
The most important step is to START!