What are Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals (EDCs)?
Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals are exogenous chemicals that have the ability to alter our body’s natural hormones leaving us unprotected in a way that affects our overall health and they cannot be avoided in our day-to-day life. Over the past 60 years, a growing number of EDCs have been used in the production of just about everything we purchase and breathe from environmental pollutants, plastics and cosmetics. In 2022, we are under attack by the myriad of chemicals we’re exposed to every day and they are constantly bombarding our bodies and contributing to negative health outcomes.
To understand EDCs, it’s important to grasp the importance of our hormones and their functioning. Hormones are chemical messengers such as testosterone, estrogen and insulin and they don’t just pertain to sexual and reproductive health. The fact is our body relies on an exquisitely balanced system of glands and hormones to deliver signals to tissues throughout our entire body that are critical for maintaining overall health and fighting illness. Brain function, thyroid, gut, immune system, and heart all critically require hormones to run smoothly. Our bodies are set up like a physiological internet system where hormones send email messages to cells telling them what to do to keep us functioning at optimal health. Imbalances and insufficiencies arise when our system freezes or wanes. EDCs hijack our system by turning on false hormone messages. We are chronically out of balance due to the exposure of EDCs and their negative effect on our messaging system.
Issues associated with EDCs
Exposure at very sensitive stages of fetal development can result in profound changes in physiology and functions that may not manifest clinically until much later in life even after ceased exposure. Disruption in the womb can affect male and female hormonal development for the rest of their lives! Pollutants have even been found in umbilical cord blood samples, proving we know it begins in utero. Over the past 20-30 years there has been a disturbing increase in asthma, lower testosterone levels, increase in childhood obesity, development disorders, complications with conceiving, just to name a few that have been linked increased exposure to EDCs.
There are hundreds of harmful EDCs in the world. So many, in fact, that scientists have a difficulty isolating the effects of just one chemical over a person’s lifespan due to the vast volume of different chemicals we are subjected to. They are not safe at any level of exposure for any duration of time. The common offenders you’ve probably heard of are found in plastics but are also in pesticides, flame retardants, tap water/foods, heavy metals and the list goes on.
Bisphenol-A (BPA), is a xenoestrogen chemical used in the manufacture of plastics found in food and drink containers, plastic water bottles, baby bottles and a variety of household products. Exposure is primarily via dietary ingestion from the inner lining of cans and microwave containers during the heating of food materials. If you frequently indulge in reheated take-out in your to-go box, this applies to you!
Xenoestrogen, a foreign substance that mimics estrogen, amplifies a feminizing effect and down regulates the masculine androgenic effect. Phthalates, another chemical found in plastics and personal care products such as perfumes, nail polish, wood stains, actually block normal testosterone production. Regular exposure to anti-androgenic chemicals for males can cause testosterone levels to decline resulting in symptoms of low testosterone such as low energy, vitality and sex drive. In addition, chemical exposure in the womb can lead to infertility, immune diseases, penis size (yes, you read that right), penis abnormalities, hormonal cancers and depression. In females, can cause PCOS, infertility, fibroids, endometriosis, hormonal cancers and even early menopause. Concerned yet?
Some EDCs have the ability to make our fat misbehave and contribute to the hormone insulin being less responsive to glucose, increasing our risk for becoming resistant and developing type-2 diabetes! Despite efforts through lifestyle changes, toxins are preventing those fat cells to budge making it that much more difficult to maintain a healthy weight and body composition. The importance of keeping excess body fat off to avoid chronic conditions is no secret.
How to avoid EDCs?
We are faced with the challenge of our modern-day environment that is a chemical soup. EDCs are gaining entry into our body and while it’s impossible to eliminate them all, the best course of action is to limit your exposure. Simple steps you can take right now:
- Replace all plastics used for storing food and drinks with glass products (NEVER heat plastics in the microwave or put in the dishwasher – plastics release chemicals when heated)
- Switch cookware to cast iron, stainless/carbon steel or glass and stay away from non-stick cookware (Non-stick coating is toxic)
- Request electronic store receipts (receipts are coated with BPA)
- Choose organic when possible and be aware of foods containing higher amounts of pesticides
- Switch to non-toxic personal care and cosmetic items
- Check your labels!! They are hiding in products you would never think of. Avoid anything with known harmful EDCs
EDCs are truly a silent killer in the world and limiting exposure is crucial for our future. Pete Myers, founder, CEO and chief scientist at Environmental Health Sciences names EDCs as a top threat to humanity next to global warming and nuclear war. Knowing that vulnerability starts in the womb and can pass on through generations makes it imperative that people are made aware and know how to limit subjection because no one wants a small penis.