Top 10 Worst Endocrine Disruptors (and How to Avoid Them)
It seems that everywhere we turn these days, we encounter substances that are harmful to our health. Whether eating, drinking, or just breathing in the air, we are exposed to a number of harmful substances. One large category of substances that everyone needs to know about are endocrine disruptors. These substances, which got their name because they disrupt the body’s endocrine system, have a structure that is similar to hormones, such as estrogen. So they manage to imbalance the body’s normal production and use of hormones, which means they can increase or decrease their production.
As if that’s not bad enough, endocrine disruptors can also mimic certain hormones, tricking and confusing the body in dangerous ways. Endocrine disruptors also transform certain hormones into other hormones, and they can disrupt hormone signaling.1 They also bind to essential hormones. So it is very clear that endocrine disruptors wreak some serious havoc in the body.
Although there are many endocrine disruptors, there are some that are especially prevalent and harmful. Here are the 10 worst endocrine disruptors along with some useful information on how to avoid them.
BPA is not something you want to be around. It is a chemical used in plastics and is able to imitate estrogen in the body. As a result, this endocrine disruptor has been implicated as a culprit causing various types of cancer as well as heart disease and obesity. BPA is especially problematic for pregnant women, as it can cause reproductive and developmental toxicity.2
Since a key place that BPA hides out is in can liners, use as few cans as possible. Also, buy fresh rather than canned food as much as possible. Fresh foods taste better and are healthier overall anyway. In general, avoid as many plastics as possible to minimize your exposure to BPA. A less well-known source of BPA is cash register (thermal paper) receipts, so try to avoid these as well.
You can become exposed to mercury in numerous ways, such as through the burning of coal that causes particles to get into the air. Seafood containing high levels of mercury is another source, as are dental fillings that contain mercury. This toxic metal negatively affects hormones in women by altering ovulation and the menstrual cycle. It can also affect adrenal and thyroid hormones.3
There are numerous actions you can take to avoid or decrease mercury exposure. If you need dental fillings, do not get ones that contain mercury. Go to a holistic or biological dentist who only uses non-mercury fillings. Avoid types of fish that contain high levels of mercury; this includes tuna and mahi mahi. Stick to other fish like wild salmon.
The negative effects of lead in drinking water have been well-publicized in the news in recent years, and for good reason. Lead is extremely harmful and can affect every single organ in the body. It can lower sex hormones, contribute to premature birth and miscarriage, and disrupt the HPA axis (the hypothalamus – pituitary – adrenal axis, which is part of the endocrine system).4
Use a high-quality filter for your drinking water, and make sure it is certified to reduce lead levels. Have your tap water tested for levels of lead. Keep your home painted often enough, and do not put up with peeling paint, which can contain lead.
Arsenic is a dangerous substance that can disrupt the functioning of the glucocorticoid system, which regulates how the human body processes sugars and carbohydrates.5 That, in turn, can cause insulin resistance, slowed growth, and weight gain.
Because arsenic can be found in tap water, it is important to use a water filter that successfully removes harmful levels of arsenic. Buy only organic and free-range chicken, as much conventional chicken contains high levels of arsenic. Also only buy brands of rice that do not contain high levels of arsenic.
As a remnant from rocket fuel, perchlorate is incredibly destructive to health in that it imbalances iodine levels in the body. This, in turn, negatively affects thyroid hormone levels.6 Those hormones are essential for metabolism in all people and for brain and organ development in children.
A reverse osmosis (RO) or ion exchange water filter can make a big difference in perchlorate levels in your drinking water. Also make sure you get plenty of iodine in your diet.
Substances known as dioxins damage the body in more ways than one. They lower men’s sperm counts and damage sperm quality. They may also contribute to cancer and negatively affect the reproductive and immune systems.7
So many foods can be contaminated with dioxins, and those include milk, eggs, and meat, so one way to minimize the risk is by eating less of those products.
It is no exaggeration to call phthalates deadly, as they cause testicular cells to die prematurely. They also lower sperm counts and can contribute to diabetes and thyroid problems.8
Because phthalates are in plastics, it makes a lot of sense to minimize your use of plastics in every form. Use other materials instead, such as glass and stainless steel. Read labels on all products you buy, because some, such as personal care products, contain phthalates. Avoid products that say “fragrance” on the label, as phthalates can be hiding in that.
Fire retardant chemicals can be transferred to nursing babies through breast milk, and those chemicals are harmful in that they can disrupt thyroid hormones and lower IQ.9 One problem with those chemicals is that they linger in the environment for a long time and continue affecting people’s health.
To minimize exposure to fire-retardant chemicals, use a vacuum cleaner that has a HEPA filter, because that can reduce how much toxic dust there is in your home. Also be mindful when you are replacing materials in your home, such as upholstery and carpet, to make sure you are not introducing products containing fire retardants.
PFCs (perfluorinated chemicals)
Perfluorinated chemicals (PFCs) sound complex, but the term simply refers to a type of chemical that is used to make nonstick coating on pans and other cookware. What they do in the human body is worrisome, as they can lower babies’ birth weight, decrease sperm count, and can contribute to thyroid disease, high cholesterol, and kidney disease.10
To avoid PFCs, do not use any nonstick cookware, and be cautious about using any treated or coated furniture, carpet, or clothing.
The pesticides that are in non-organic fruits and vegetables are downright dangerous, and among their serious negative affects, they can alter testosterone levels as well as thyroid hormone levels in the body. They can also affect behavior and brain development.11
To avoid this endocrine disruptor, buy and eat organic fruits and vegetables whenever possible. Even if you cannot use all organic produce, focus on buying organic in the foods that are the most heavily sprayed with pesticides. There are “Dirty Dozen” and “Clean Fifteen” lists published yearly that include the fruits and vegetables that contain the lowest levels of pesticides and those that contain the highest.
Avoiding the worst endocrine disruptors
The worst endocrine disruptors can create numerous health consequences in humans, with one of them being heightenend cancer risk. People of all ages are harmed by endocrine disruptors, but children are especially susceptible to suffering negative effects.
In recognizing the harm caused by endocrine disruptors, the European Commission recently adopted a Communication and spoke out to reiterate its commitment to protecting citizens from harm brought about by those substances. Karmenu Vella, Commissioner for Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, said that “this Communication confirms that the Commission takes endocrine disruptors very seriously and intends to strengthen its efforts to minimise citizens and environment exposure to these chemicals.”12
While organizations like the European Commission are taking steps to reduce these substances in our environment, It is especially important to do what you can to minimize your risk by avoiding endocrine disruptors as much as possible. Even if you have been exposed to them, it is possible to detoxify through various modalities like far infrared sauna. Work with a qualified health practitioner to assess your risk and safely detoxify the harmful substances.
With ZYTO technology, you can scan for a wide range of endrocrine disruptors. The objective data from a ZYTO bioscan displays your body’s responses to the endocrine disruptors you scan, helping you make better decisions when it comes to these substances and your overall wellness.
1. “Endocrine Disruptors.” National Institute for Environmental Health Sciences. Niehs.nih.gov.
2. Lamartiniere, C.A., S. Jenkins, A.M. Betancourt, et al. “Exposure to the endocrine disruptor bisphenol A alters susceptibility for mammary cancer.” Hormone Molecular Biology and Clinical Investigation 5, no. 2 (2010): 45-52
3. Tan, S.W., J.C. Meiller, & K.R. Mahaffey. “The endocrine effects of mercury in human and wildlife.” Critical Reviews in Toxicology 39, no. 3 (2009): 228-269.
4. Doumouchtsis, K.K., S.K. Doumouchtsis, et al. “The effect of lead intoxication on endocrine functions.” Journal of Endocrinological Investigation 32, no. 2 (2009): 175-183.
5. Davey, J.C., J.E. Bodwell, J.A. Goss, & J.W. Hamilton. “Arsenic as an Endocrine Disruptor: Effects of Arsenic on Estrogen Receptor-Mediated Gene Expression in Vivo and in Cell Culture.” Toxicological Sciences 98, no. 1 (2007): 75-86.
6. Stoker, T.E., J.M. Ferrell, S.C. Laws, et. al. “Evaluation of ammonium perchlorate in the endocrine disruptor screening and testing program’s male pubertal protocol: ability to detect effects on thyroid endpoints.” Toxicology 228, no. 1 (2006): 58-65.
7. “Dioxins and their effects on human health.” World Health Organization. Who.int.
8. Hueiwang, A.J. “Exposure to Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals and Male Reproductive Health.” Frontiers in Public Health 2, no 55 (2014).
9. Legler, J., & A. Brouwer. “Are brominated flame retardants endocrine disruptors?” Environment International 29, no. 6 (2003): 879-885.
10. “Prefluorinated Chemicals.” National Institute for Environmental Health Sciences. Niehs.nih.gov.
11. Wissem, M., A.I. Hassine, A. Bouaziz, et. al. “Effect of Endocrine Disruptor Pesticides: A Review.” International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health 8, no. 6 (2011): 2265-2303.
12. “Endocrine disruptors: A strategy for the future that protects EU citizens and the environment.” European Commission. Europa.eu.