How Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals Harm Your Health
ENDOCRINE DISRUPTING CHEMICALS
How Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals Harm Your Health
The Endocrine System’s Diverse Functions
The endocrine system is made up of a network of glands that secrete hormones to regulate various functions in our bodies. Similar to the nervous system, the endocrine system is one of the body’s main communicating hubs. Instead of using nerves to transmit information, the endocrine system uses blood vessels to deliver hormones to cells, transmitting information. Our hormones act as signals, telling your body to perform a specific task. The hormones released guide metabolism, reproduction, development, and our body’s response to stress. There are eight hormone-secreting glands that make up the endocrine system including the adrenal gland, hypothalamus, pancreas, parathyroid gland, pituitary gland, reproductive glands, and the thyroid gland. If all these glands within our endocrine system are performing normally our bodies have the ability to reach homeostasis, or the state of equilibrium within the body. In short: our hormones control just about everything. Not only do our bodies need well-rounded hormone balance to perform everyday functions, but our utter health and well-being depend on it.
What are Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals?
Endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) are natural or synthetic chemicals that can interfere with the functions of hormones in the body. Some of the more common chemicals that cause disruption to the endocrine system include BPA, phthalates, PFAS, atrazine, flame retardants, and perchlorate. These chemicals are found in many items that are scattered around your household like lotions, baby powders, cleaning sprays, vacuums, toys, and various electronics. Additionally, EDCs are released into the environment by the industrial system and are absorbed into agriculture. Over hundreds of chemicals used in pesticides have been found to have a direct result in disrupting our hormones. Pesticides are applied exceedingly with few guidelines or restrictions in the United States and the European Union. Any system in the body controlled by hormones can be derailed or delayed by EDCs. EDCs hinder the synthesis, secretion, transport, or elimination of hormones. They operate by interfering with natural hormones, causing them to misfire and become dysfunctional. These disruptions can cause cancerous tumors, birth defects, and other developmental disorders. Research suggests that long-term exposure to EDCs alter fertility in both men and women. Toxicologists claim that EDCs could be leading a major decline in sperm count and quality in males. In women, EDC can cause issues like early puberty or can accelerate menopause in adults. Frighteningly, fetuses, infants, and children are much more susceptible to EDCs than fully developed adults.
The Dangers of EDCs During Pregnancy
Several organs in our bodies play important roles in helping the endocrine system accurately function. Although these organs are not glands themselves, they do produce, store, and transmit hormones that help the body to maintain homeostasis. The placenta is the organ developed in a women’s uterus during pregnancy. It’s an exceptional endocrine organ that is solely responsible for providing the connection between the mother and the developing fetus. The placenta produces hormones that maintain the lining of the uterus and sustains a healthy and balanced environment so that the fetus can develop. Human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG), estrogen, and progesterone are among the most important hormones produced by the placenta. They maintain a normal healthy pregnancy, and prepare the women’s body for birth. EDCs can bind to hCG, estrogen and progesterone and cause disarray between the hormones communications, resulting in severe problems with pregnancy. Developing children are extremely vulnerable to pre-and-postnatal exposure to EDCs during the initial stages of growth, while core systems are being developed. Low birth weight, body deformations, and neurological disorders such as attention-deficit/hyperactivity and autism are linked to EDC exposure as well.
Protecting the Endocrine System
Endocrine disrupting chemicals are in our environment, in our food, and are used in a wide variety of commercial products we use every day. To protect the health of ourselves and our children, introducing daily changes to reduce exposure to EDCs is necessary. Here are some practical ways to defend your hormones, reproductive health, and protection against certain disorders in children.
Eat organically, and get your food and water tested for chemicals. Eating foods that do not contain pesticides and are grown on ethical farms will make a dramatic impact on potential chemical exposure. Source food responsibly by researching brands, and purify drinking water if necessary at home with a filtration system. Get your food tested using the TestSharing app, to see if EDCs are in your favorite foods.
Avoid unnecessary exposure in the outdoor environment. Eliminating plastics, and using sustainable materials will help significantly reduce chemical exposure as well. Replace plastic bags with reusable cloth bags, and replace plastic straws/Tupperware with glass and stainless steel.
Minimize the use of cosmetic and personal care products that contain hazardous chemicals. Lotions, polishes, glosses and cleaning products also contain high amounts of EDCs. Similar to food, source your products well and only use clean products on children. Products with the fewer ingredients the better!
Keep you and your home clean. Many chemicals are used in many common household products that escape electronics, open windows, or AC units that collect in the form of dust. Sweep and clean regularly. Washing your hands often, especially before touching food or children, will banish a substantial amount of chemical residues down the drain.