A friend recently asked me about endocrine-disrupting chemicals and wanted to know more about them and their dangers. I realized just how little information people have about these chemicals that are widespread in our society. That’s why I wanted to share what I know about endocrine-disruptors, here.
Just to backtrack a bit about my own story. I founded Pharmacopia in 1999 with one goal in mind: to create better-for-you products that were effective but weren’t harmful to health. I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia and began researching ingredients that were unhealthy. At that time, personal care products—which we all use so frequently—contained ingredients that had been linked to many health issues like cancer. Yet, at that time, there were very few alternatives. That’s why I developed my own brand, Pharmacopia, using good-for-you plant-based ingredients from my own organic garden.
It still concerns me, however, that so many of these chemicals are still present in personal care products (and so much more) today. Pharmacopia is committed to being toxin free—because there’s no reason why taking care of yourself every day should be putting your health at risk.
What are endocrine-disrupting chemicals?
According to the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (part of the National Institutes of Health), endocrine-disrupting chemicals are any chemicals that block, mimic or interfere with the body’s hormones, which are part of the endocrine system.
It’s our endocrine system that is critical to our health. This system—comprised of glands throughout the body that produce hormones—impacts every single function in the body from mood and metabolism to growth, development, and reproduction. It even influences how our organs work.
The glands that are part of the endocrine system include: the hypothalamus, pituitary, thyroid and parathyroids, adrenals, pineal, the ovaries, and the testes. If you think for a second about how important even just one of these glands is to the body, you’ll quickly realize—like we did—that this is a system you just don’t want to mess with, ever.
Even just the slightest disruptions to this system can trigger significant “biological and developmental effects,” according to the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences. This is why endocrine disruptors have been linked to cancer, reproductive issues including infertility and birth defects, neurological problems including ADHD, and even obesity.
Where are endocrine-disrupting chemicals found?
These chemicals are found pretty much everywhere today—from plastics, pesticides, nonstick pans, and flame retardants to personal care products. They’re also found in the environment and in the food we eat.
That means, according to the Endocrine Society, we can get exposed to these chemicals through the air we breathe, the food we eat, the water we drink, and anything used on our skin. (Endocrine disrupting chemicals can enter the body through the skin.)
This is why researchers continue to investigate exactly how these chemicals are affecting us. It begs the question why these products are even allowed to be present in products available for purchase. That’s a bigger issue but we stand behind our Pharmacopia products because they don’t contain any of this harmful stuff and are actually good for your body—and your health.
How to limit endocrine-disrupting chemicals in your daily life
Everyone should take steps to limit or avoid these chemicals, but particularly if you’re pregnant or thinking about getting pregnant. A recent study found that endocrine disruptors in personal care products can impact pregnancy.
Skip the plastic water bottles and opt for metal or glass water bottles instead. Since endocrine-disruptors like BPA are present in plastic, it’s just best to avoid them altogether. And doing so, as we’ve talked about, is better for the environment too. So you get double the benefit by switching from plastic.
It’s also important to keep in mind that even if a plastic says “BPA free” the alternatives may not be any better for you. Other important plastic tips: avoid eating out of plastic containers, microwaving plastic, and using nylon tea bags.
- Eat fresh, organic food whenever possible. Endocrine disruptors are found in pesticides. The fewer pesticide-laden foods you eat, the fewer endocrine disruptors you’re exposed to.
Avoid non-stick cookware and choose stainless steel or cast iron instead. You may need to put in a bit more elbow grease to get these pans clean, but you’ll be avoiding a top source of endocrine-disrupting chemicals called PFAs or (per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances).
Other ways to avoid PFAs: bring your own container for to-go foods like hot soups and avoid, whenever possible, take-out foods like burgers that come in grease-resistant packaging (this contains PFAs). Also pop your own popcorn. (Microwave popcorn bags, even if it says “organic,” are coated with PFAs that can leach into this snack food.)
Use phthalate-free personal care products. Pharmacopia products have never contained these chemicals from our start because of their impact on health. But these chemicals are still found in cosmetics and fragrances—in everything from perfume, nail polish, hair spray, aftershave lotion, and cleanser to shampoo and conditioner.
Our essential-oil-scented shampoos and conditioners are, and always will be, phthalate free, as are our body washes, body bars, and well, all of our Pharmacopia products.
Avoid parabens. This is another endocrine disruptor we’ve never used in our products—and never will. All Pharmacopia products are paraben free.
Parabens are chemical preservatives that are commonly used in many personal care products. They go by names that end in “paraben,” including: ethylparaben, butylparaben, methylparaben, propylparaben, isobutylparaben, and isopropylparaben.
Limit use of antimicrobial products. These include antibacterial hand and body washes and soaps (a healthier alternative: our body wash doubles as an amazing toxic-free hand soap!). Some toothpastes also contain triclosan, an antibacterial and antifungal ingredient that is an endocrine-disrupting chemical.
There’s simply no need for antibacterial products like these: proper handwashing (suds up with soap and warm water and sing happy birthday to thoroughly clean hands) and toothbrushing will get you as clean as you need to be.
Use a water filter at home. Many home water filters can filter out many of the endocrine disrupting chemicals found in tap water.
It’s the little things you do every day, like using Pharmacopia products, that make a difference in your health over time. Taking steps to limit the amount of endocrine-disrupting chemicals you’re exposed to today will help you be healthier tomorrow—and for years to come.