What is an EDC or an Endocrine Disruptor?

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What is an EDC or an Endocrine Disruptor?

EDCs or Endocrine disrupting chemicals are substances which interfere with the way our bodies’ hormones work. EDCs can be found in the environment, foods, personal care products, and manufactured products. Some EDCs mimic our natural hormones, such as those found in plant oestrogens, while others block proper hormone function. EDCs can cause dysfunction throughout our bodies, in our immune systems, metabolic systems, neurological systems, sexual reproductive systems, and more.

Endocrine disruptors are found everywhere from groundwater and soil—stemming from pesticide use, to inside our homes in construction materials, furniture and textiles— which can be treated with flame retardants, or contain lead and PCBs. 

For most families, daily exposure comes from non-organic produce which can contain pesticide residues and from the daily use of cosmetics, lotions and soaps which can both be packaged in containers that contain EDCs or contain them in the actual product formulations. 

EDC exposure during pregnancy, breastfeeding and childhood can be especially damaging. High exposure to endocrine disruptors during the gestational period can lead to growth and development being affected, with the possible outcomes being low-birth weight, disrupted sexual development and/or immune system dysfunction. 

Reproductive health can be affected by EDCs which can mimic or block both female and male sex hormones (DDT, BPA, phthalates, PCBs, others). 

It is surprising how many household items contain these endocrine disrupting chemicals. For example, PFCS, or perfluorochemicals, are EDCs found everywhere from clothing, textiles, non-stick food wrappers, the lining in microwave popcorn bags and old non-stick (teflon) cookware. Studies suggest that large amounts of PFCs may injure the liver and affect growth and development.

Did you know that lead, phthalates and cadmium are often found in children’s products and Bisphenol A (BPA) is commonly found in food packaging? Look for product packaging or storage containers that specify that they are BPA Free. Triclosan is an EDC found in anti-bacterial soaps and even some toothpastes!

Although research is ongoing, we know that EDCs can cause behavioral and neurological changes, and even the reduced ability to handle stress. They can also effect the metabolism both by promoting obesity and affecting thyroid function.

Most commonly discussed are the cancer causing abilities of EDCs which are due mostly to androgen and estrogen mimicking substances which in turn promote both breast and prostate cancer growths. Even prenatal exposure to estrogen mimicking EDCs can increase risk of breast cancer later in life! For more detailed information and listings on all types of endocrine disrupting chemicals, visit the websites listed below.

https://www.cdc.gov/biomonitoring/pdf/pfcs_factsheet.pdf

https://www.hormone.org/your-health-and-hormones/endocrine-disrupting-chemicals-edcs

https://www.niehs.nih.gov/health/topics/agents/endocrine/index.cfm

https://www.epa.gov/endocrine-disruption/what-endocrine-disruption

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