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  • Writer's pictureDr Shawn M. Carney

Endocrine Disruptors: Skip the mask,these industrial chemicals are already in you

Updated: Oct 26, 2022

So many everyday chemicals have been associated with disturbances in the endocrine system, which in a broader sense can be related to problems with reproduction, cancers, thyroid, obesity, metabolism and neurodevelopment. It's time to learn about what is under YOUR hood!

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What are endocrine disruptors?

One of the body's key balancing and messenger systems is the endocrine system. It relies on hormones. Unfortunately, a variety of chemicals, both natural and man-made, may mimic or interfere with our hormones. Called "endocrine disruptors", these chemicals are linked with developmental, metabolic, reproductive, brain, immune, and other problems.1 They can have such far-reaching outcomes because once absorbed into the body, they can either decrease or increase normal hormone levels, sometimes by facilitating the body's natural hormones and activating pathways, or by obstructing endocrine receptors and prohibiting reactions. Endocrine disruptors are ubiquitous and found in many everyday products, so they are worth reviewing. These include some plastic bottles and containers, liners of metal food cans, foods themselves, nonstick pans, paper, cosmetics, detergents, flame retardants, food, toys, carpet, anti-microbial personal care products, furniture foam, pesticides and more.

Contact with endocrine disruptors comes in many forms. Though some of these compounds we knowingly encounter every day, others may be more of an occupational hazard and/or perceived as less likely to encounter. However, environmental exposures, such as ground water contamination, have sometimes left communities affected which would have otherwise not have occurred. These include results from the production of munitions, electrical or aerospace equipment, automobiles and much more.

Chemicals that can interfere with proper endocrine system functioning include, but are not limited to:

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  • Phytoestrogens - Phytoestrogens are naturally occurring substances in plants that have hormone-like activity, such as genistein and daidzein that are in soy products, like tofu or soy milk. They can have medicinal benefits in conditions attributable to low levels of estrogens, however, benefits for conditions like breast cancer have been much harder to substantiate without controversy.

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What features make these endocrine disruptor chemicals such a concern?

Some endocrine-disrupting chemicals are slow to break-down in the environment. That characteristic makes them potentially hazardous over time. Since people are typically exposed to multiple endocrine disruptors at the same time, assessing public health effects is difficult at best. Scientists and health advocates are often playing 'catch-up', trying to establish the burden of proof once these compounds have already been let loose into the public. Endocrine disrupting chemicals have been shown to cause adverse effects in animals. Increasing amounts scientific information exists on potential health problems in humans and regulatory changes are often piecemeal, as evidenced with triclosan.

Be sure to check our next blog for some ideas about reducing your exposure and body burden from endocrine disruptors!!


1. Endocrine Disruptors and Your Health. National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences. 2020. May.

2. National Institute of Health, National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences. Bisphenol A.

3. Mendonca, K. et al. Bisphenol A concentrations in maternal breast milk and infant urine. Int Arch Occup Environ Health. 2014 Jan; 87(1): 13–20.

4. Dioxins and Their Effects on Human Health. World Health Organization. 2016. Oct 4.

5. Fromme, H. et al. Polychlorinated dioxins and dibenzofurans (PCDD/F), polybrominated dioxins and dibenzofurans (PBDD/F), polychlorinated biphenyls (PCB), polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDE), and per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in German breast milk samples (LUPE 8). Sci Total Environ. 2022 Jun 15;825:154066.

6. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Technical Fact Sheet - Perchlorate. 2014. January.

7. National Institutes of Health, National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences. Perfluoroalkyl and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS). Accessed 4-30-22.

8. Lewis, R. et al. Serum Biomarkers of Exposure to Perfluoroalkyl Substances in Relation to Serum Testosterone and Measures of Thyroid Function among Adults and Adolescents from NHANES 2011–2012. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2015 Jun; 12(6): 6098–6114. Published online 2015 May 29.

9. Engel, S. et al. Neurotoxicity of Ortho-Phthalates: Recommendations for Critical Policy Reforms to Protect Brain Development in Children. Am J Public Health. 2021 Apr;111(4):687-695.

10. Committee on the Design and Evaluation of Safer Chemical Substitutions. A Framework to Guide Selection of Chemical Alternatives. Washington, DC: National Research Council; 2014.

11. Hites, R. Polybrominated diphenyl ethers in the environment and in people: a meta-analysis of concentrations. Environ Sci Technol. 2004 Feb 15;38(4):945-56.

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14. Hites, R. et al. Temporal environmental hysteresis: A definition and implications for polybrominated diphenyl ethers. Sci Total Environ. 2021 Jan 20;753:141849.

15. McGovern, V. PCBs Are Endocrine Disruptors: Mixture Affects Reproductive Development in Female Mice. Environ Health Perspect. 2006 Jun; 114(6): A368–A369.

16. Calaf, G. et al. Endocrine disruptors from the environment affecting breast cancer (Review). Oncology Letters 20.1 (2020): 19-32.

17. Weatherly, L. et al. Triclosan Exposure, Transformation, and Human Health Effects. J Toxicol Environ Health B Crit Rev. 2017 ; 20(8): 447–469.

18. Sun L, et al. Differential mechanisms regarding triclosan vs. bisphenol A and fluorene-9-bisphenol induced zebrafish lipid-metabolism disorders by RNA-Seq. Chemosphere. 2020 Jul;251:126318.

The content and any recommendations in this article are for informational purposes only. They are not intended to replace the advice of the reader's own licensed healthcare professional or physician and are not intended to be taken as direct diagnostic or treatment directives. Any treatments described in this article may have known and unknown side effects and/or health hazards. Each reader is solely responsible for his or her own healthcare choices and decisions. The author advises the reader to discuss these ideas with a licensed naturopathic physician.

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