Hormone-altering chemicals are common in our world. Some are naturally occurring, but most are man-made. Our scientific understanding of these substances varies: Some have not been widely studied, while others have been studied but are still not well understood. Understanding how your family comes in contact with these chemicals allows you to safeguard your home, reduce your exposure and improve your health.
How much time do you spend thinking about your hormones? For most of us, conversations about hormones are limited to a few topics: teenagers, monthly cycles or menopause. But hormones are crucial for our bodies to operate optimally—for both genders and throughout our lives. Unfortunately, many common chemicals are scientifically proven to alter the way our brains produce and work with hormones. Hormone-disrupting chemicals can alter the actions of hormones by mimicking or blocking natural hormones, or by boosting hormone production. (i)
A ubiquitous chemical in the average household, phthalates are found in many products ranging from pacifiers to window blinds. Research shows they can trigger death-inducing signals to sperm cells, causing them to die prematurely. Phthalates are also linked to infertility, diabetes, ADHD, high blood pressure, thyroid disorders, obesity and birth defects.
Atrazine is a common agricultural herbicide used on corn crops. Consequently, it is a pervasive contaminant in drinking water. This chemical has been associated with prostate disorders, breast tumors, birth defects and delayed puberty.
How to avoid it? Purchase organic produce and procure a drinking water filter certified to remove atrazine.
How to avoid it? Do not buy plastic food containers, plastic wrap or toys that have the recycling label #3. When purchasing personal care products, avoid those with “fragrance” listed in the label. (ii)
A chemical used in plastics, BPA imitates the sex hormone estrogen. It has been linked to heart disease, breast cancer, obesity, reproductive problems, early puberty, asthma and tooth decay. Government tests show 93 percent of Americans have BPA in their bodies.
How to avoid it? Since many canned foods are lined with this chemical, opt for fresh foods. Do not ask for cash register receipts because thermal paper is often coated with this chemical. Avoid plastics with a “PC” mark or recycling label , as many of these products contain BPA.
Dioxins form during certain industrial processes and perpetrate their harm by disrupting the signals of male and female sex hormones. They are powerful carcinogens and can impair the immune system. Other possible effects include infertility, skin lesions and nervous system disorders.
How to avoid it? Dioxins are prevalent in the environment, so they are difficult to avoid. Eating less processed meat, fish and dairy products can reduce your exposure.(iii)
Unbelievably, this ingredient in rocket fuel and firecrackers is in our water supply in addition to being present in some vegetable and dairy products. Perchlorate can cause thyroid disorders and developmental delays in babies.
How to avoid it? Install a reverse osmosis filter for your drinking water. You can reduce its potential harm by making sure you get enough iodine in your diet. Use iodized salt.
Fire retardants used in the manufacture of household products, especially polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs), are extremely persistent in the environment. Although the most toxic versions have been banned, these chemicals will continue to contaminate our food supply and water for years to come. PBDEs cause thyroid disorders, ensuing in lower IQs and ADHD.
How to avoid it? It is impossible to avoid fire retardants, but you can minimize your exposure by using a vacuum cleaner with a HEPA filter and dusting frequently. Be careful when replacing old carpet because the padding may contain PBDEs. Avoid reupholstering foam furniture. (iv)
Older homes may have lead paint on the walls and in the soil around them, making it easy for children to be exposed when they play in the dirt. Lead is detrimental to nearly every organ system in the body and has been associated with a broad spectrum of health problems. These include permanent brain damage, hearing loss, lower IQ, miscarriage, kidney damage, nervous system problems and high blood pressure. Additionally, lead disrupts the body’s major stress system, leading to depression, anxiety and diabetes.
How to avoid it? Get rid of crumbling old paint – carefully. Dust and vacuum frequently if your home has lead paint. Use a filter to remove lead from your drinking water.
These chemicals designed to attack the nervous system of insects are among the most commonly used pesticides today. Research links them to neurological disorders, lower IQ, ADHD, altered thyroid levels, lower testosterone and delays in reproductive development.
How to avoid it? Buy organic produce.
Glycol ethers are common solvents in cleaning supplies, paints, brake fluids and some cosmetics. Exposure is associated with male infertility, allergies, asthma and impaired fetal development.
How to avoid it? Avoid products with ingredients like 2-butoxyethanol (EGBE) and methoxydiglycol (DEGME) on the label.
Inorganic arsenic, a synthetic compound used in pesticides, is a known carcinogen associated with lung, bladder and skin cancers. It is also linked to cardiovascular disease, diabetes, osteoporosis, immunosuppression, high blood pressure and growth retardation.
How to avoid it? Use a water filter that reduces arsenic levels.
Mercury pollutes the air and oceans primarily through burning coal. Because of this widespread pollution, fish and seafood are heavily contaminated with this toxic metal. Expectant mothers are most at risk because the chemical concentrates in the fetal brain, hindering its development. Mercury can also cause hair loss, kidney failure and extreme muscle weakness.
How to avoid it? In choosing fish, opt for wild salmon and farmed trout.
These chemicals, also known as PFCs, are used to make nonstick cookware along with many stain-resistant and water-repellant products. They are so widespread and persistent that 99 percent of Americans have them in their bodies. PFCs are associated with neurological delays, infertility, early menopause, delayed puberty and low sperm count.
How to avoid it? Avoid nonstick pans as well as furniture, carpet and clothing with stain-resistant or water-resistant coatings.(v)