What are endocrine disruptors? 7 easy ways to limit exposure

Since I was diagnosed with PCOS, I have been looking for ways to remove endocrine disruptors from our home. That includes everything from our bathroom cabinets to our pantry. Unfortunately, there is no shortage of nasty ingredients in our household items and skin care products. In fact, most of us are not aware of how much we are exposed to! Similarly, 80,000 chemicals, per day. Over time, these unnatural ingredients wreak havoc on our hormones. They also affect our lifespan, blood sugar and more. The less contact we have, the better. And this starts at home.

So, what are endocrine disruptors? Learn what they are today, how they disrupt hormones, and top tips for limiting exposure.

Featured image of Michelle Nash.

Synthetic chemicals disrupt the body’s flow

Our bodies run on a network of hormones. These hormones regulate nearly all processes, functions, and emotions. Usually, we think of this system – the endocrine system – in the context of menstrual health. But it actually plays an important role in our development, metabolism, and more. It’s a powerful yet delicate system (a system prone to imbalance).

While many factors can disrupt its flow, synthetic chemicals are certainly to blame. They are found in plastics, foods, perfumes, etc. They mimic hormones and interfere with our fragile endocrine system. We are exposed to these synthetic chemicals – also known as endocrine disruptors – on a daily basis.

What are endocrine disruptors?

Endocrine disrupting chemicals – also known as EDCs – are harmful substances in the environment. They are often man-made, found in a wide variety of consumer goods. Think: carpets, cookware, household dust, perfumes, furniture, paints, skin care products, plastics, pesticides, certain pharmaceuticals, and unfiltered drinking water.

Once they are in our body, they can disrupt our endocrine system. In essence, they mimic, block or interfere with our hormones. In the long run, this can pose significant health risks. Fortunately, you can limit (or avoid entirely!) endocrine disruptors by shopping smarter.

Potential dangers of endocrine disruptors

Not a bearer of bad news, but endocrine disruptors play a lot of tricks on their bodies. They can increase the production of certain hormones, decrease the production of others, as well as bind pheromones to mimic them. EDCs are even known to be able to turn one hormone into another, interfering with hormone signaling. Most notably, they accumulate in our organs, competing with essential nutrients. Emerging long-term research suggests that EDC may put us at increased risk of developing a number of health conditions: including type 2 diabetes and cancer. When possible, we want to avoid them!

Common endocrine disruptors and how to avoid them

There is a laundry list of endocrine disruptors, but here are the most common (and where they hide):

  • Bisphenol A (BPA) and other bisphenols: plastics and canned goods.
  • Chemical flame retardants: furniture, mattresses and kitchen items.
  • High-risk pesticides: personal care, conventional foods, weed killers, and unfiltered water.
  • Methylisothiazolinone: preservative in cleaning and personal care products.
  • Oxybenzone: sunscreen and perfume.
  • Parabens: personal care.
  • Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS): stain-resistant carpets, non-stick cookware, cosmetics, some food packaging materials, and some menstrual health products.
  • Phthalates: plastic, canned goods, fragrance
  • Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs): paints, plastics and rubber.
  • Triclosan and triclocarban: cleaning products, labeled as “antibacterials”.

7 ways to limit your exposure to endocrine disruptors

Know What? Endocrine disruptors – and how they affect the body – are only part of the puzzle. Understanding how to limit your exposure is another. Here are seven ways to limit your daily exposure to EDC.

Switch to Clean Beauty

Here at CS, we are obsessed with clean beauty. From moisturizer to mascara, we’ve tried them all. When it comes to skincare and makeup products, cleanliness is key. Every day, we are exposed to many chemicals, and as women, we are particularly concerned. In fact, studies show that women who use an average of 12 personal care products daily are exposed to more than 160 different chemicals.

While an individual beauty product may contain small amounts of harmful chemicals, our overall exposure (and a combination of different chemicals) is what causes the problem. Thankfully, clean beauty brands are just a dime. You can test your makeup products for their cleanliness, here.

Pour plastic

For your body and environment. Studies show that plastic contains (and washes away) dangerous chemicals, including endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs). EDCs disrupt the body’s hormone system and can cause cancer, diabetes, reproductive disorders, and neurological impairment in fetuses and developing children. The report describes a wealth of evidence that supports a direct cause-and-effect link between toxic chemical additives in plastics and specific health effects on the endocrine system. Exchange your plastic software for glass!

Say Yes to Fresh Air

Did you know that indoor dust can be enriched with endocrine disrupting chemicals (emissions from many sources in the home)? This is your gentle move to open the window. Window openings help prevent mold and moisture from forming, remove dust from the air, and even encourage higher serotonin levels. Fresh air is a beautiful thing. Equally important, change the heater and air conditioner filters. If you have air conditioning, you can change this filter every six months. A general rule of thumb for your oven: replace it when it’s dirty. For most homes, that’s once per winter.

Your Cleaning Supplies Inventory

One of the biggest culprits of EDC? Cleaning supplies. It’s no surprise that many cleaners can irritate the eyes or throat, or cause other health problems, including cancer. Some products release dangerous chemicals, including ammonia and bleach. No need for such harsh synthetic chemicals! When possible, choose non-toxic cleaning products. A few of my favorite sustainable cleaning brands are Dr. Bronner, Method and Puracy. You can check the toxicity of your cleaning products here. Remember, knowledge is power.

Exchange artificial perfumes for plants and candles

Let’s talk about houseplants. In addition to adding color and beauty to your space, most houseplants absorb toxins from the air. All of them will increase humidity and oxygen production in your home. This is a fun, affordable way to buy your plants! Plus, there are a variety of low-light plants that thrive in different rooms and living spaces.

When it comes to living space, do you like burning candles? If so, have sayonara with artificial air fresheners and paraffin wax scented candles. Unfortunately, most candles are made with paraffin wax, which sucks harmful chemicals into the air. When in doubt, choose candles made with soy wax and beeswax. I love Otherland candles. Diffusing essential oils is also a great alternative.

Drink filtered water

Next, water. The best way to remove contaminants and unnecessary EDC from your faucet is to use a water filter. While we have the Berkey – and it’s a worthwhile investment – it’s far above the price scale. At the very least, removing lead with a cost-effective filter is ideal. There are many to choose from, from refrigerator filters to pitchers, and you can even add a filter to your shower head. This will remove chemicals, like chlorine, as you rinse. Curious to know what’s in your water? Click here.

Consider eco-friendly home decor

If you are in the market to upgrade your furniture, Choose synthetic products that are chemical-free and sustainably produced. Popular retailers — like Wayfair, Crate and Barrel and Pottery Barn — tell us which items are sustainable and chemical-free. Of course, there are also plenty of boutique companies and antique stores that offer beautiful, non-toxic furniture and room decor.

Last but not least, consider switching to organic litter. Most of us don’t realize how many chemicals are in our bedding and mattresses — where we spend 7-9 hours a night! Organic bedding is not only better for the environment (no synthetic chemicals or pesticides are used) but also safer for your skin. It also tends to be much softer than its usual counterpart. And when you clean your sheets, use a non-toxic laundry detergent. Wool drying balls can also be used in place of drying sheets!

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