Endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDC) are synthetic chemicals that when absorbed into the body either mimics or blocks hormones and disrupt the body's normal functions.
This disruption can happen through altering normal hormone levels, halting or stimulating the production of hormones, or changing the way hormones travel through the body, thus affecting the functions that these hormones control.
Chemicals that are known human endocrine disruptors include:
- diethylstilbesterol (the drug DES)
- some other pesticides.
Many chemicals, particularly pesticides and plasticizers, are suspected endocrine disruptors based on limited animal studies.
In the 1950s and 1960s, pregnant women were prescribed diethylstilbestrol (DES), a synthetic estrogen, to prevent miscarriages. Not only did DES fail to prevent miscarriages, but it also caused health problems for many of these women's children. In 1971, doctors began reporting high rates of unusual vaginal cancers in teenage girls. Investigations of the girls' environmental exposures traced the problem to their mothers' use of DES. The girls also suffered birth defects of the uterus and ovaries and immune system suppression.
Because endocrine disruptors affect the development of the body's vital organs and hormonal systems, infants, children and developing fetuses are more vulnerable to exposure. And as was the case with DES, parents' exposure to certain chemicals may produce unexpected -- and tragic -- effects in their children, even decades later.
- Educate yourself about endocrine disruptors, and educate your family and friends.
- Avoid using pesticides in your home or yard, or on your pet -- use baits or traps instead, keeping your home especially clean to prevent ant or roach infestations.
- Find out if pesticides are used in your child's school or day care center and campaign for non-toxic alternatives.
- Eat less or no processed food
- Eat more fresh foods
- Reduce eating canned food
- Do not use plastics with recycled codes #3 or #7 because they may contain phthalates and/or bisphenol A.
- Avoid fatty foods such as cheese and meat whenever possible.
- If you eat fish from lakes, rivers, or bays, check with your state to see if they are contaminated.
- Avoid heating food in plastic containers, or storing fatty foods in plastic containers or plastic wrap.
- Do not give young children soft plastic teethers or toys, since these leach potential endocrine disrupting chemicals.
- Support efforts to get strong government regulation of and increased research on endocrine disrupting chemicals.
- Careful when removing old carpets
- Use a vacuum machine with a HEPA filter