Saturday, August 29, 2009

Endocrine Disruptors: Where do we find them?

In the first installment I defined endocrine disruptors as exogenous substances (coming from outside the body) that act like hormones in the endocrine system and disrupt the physiologic function of endogenous (inside the body) hormones.

So the next logical question would be where are these hormone-like substances found? Some man-made chemicals found in household products that we use daily – cleaners, laundry products, personal care products – are likely suspects. These chemicals are also found in many of the foods we eat. We are exposed through the air we breathe, the food and water we take in, and the products we absorb through our skin (think shampoo, body lotion, cosmetics, etc).

Here is a sampling of chemicals thought to be endocrine disruptors:

Phthalates – used to make plastics more flexible and durable. It is used in PVC plastic found in upholstery material, shower curtains, floor tiles & children’s toys. It is also found in toiletries (especially nail polish), toothbrushes and insect repellents. (This is just a very small sampling.)

Bisphenol A (BPA) – is a component of plastic used in the lining of food cans & bottle tops. It is also in polycarbonate plastics like soft drink containers, water jugs and baby bottles.

Dioxins – not intentionally produced, dioxins are released into the environment as a by-product of chemical processes involving chlorine. Most dioxin is emitted into the air and then deposited on grass and trees and consumed by cows and other animals; or it goes into lakes and streams and ingested by fish. Ninety-five percent of our exposure is through meat, fish, and dairy products.

PVC (polyvinyl chloride) aka vinyl – one of the most common plastics. Manufacturing and burning PVC creates dioxins. It has been used widely in upholstery, home furnishings, children’s toys and hundreds of other products.

Detergents – a class of chemical surfactants that dissolve and remove oils and grease and make products more water soluble. They are found in ordinary household products like laundry detergents, all-purpose cleaners, personal care products like soaps, shampoos shaving foams, cosmetics and spermicides.

Other Endocrine-Disrupting Compounds: Pesticides, lead, cadmium and mercury.

Pesticide are used on food crops and home gardens, and are also found in flea collars, lice shampoo and even under the foundation of your home.

I just want to say that this is a daunting subject and cannot possibly be covered thoroughly in a few blog posts. I would encourage each of you reading this to please do your own due diligence and learn what products you should remove from your homes and replace with safer alternatives.

Next time: How do endocrine disruptors affect us and what can we do to support our health and our bodies?
Primary source of information: Hormone Deception by D. Lindsey Berkson

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