Endocrine disrupting chemicals and your health
The United Nations and World Health Organisation recently published a report saying that since 2010 young women are developing into puberty twice as quickly as 10 years ago. One of the reasons for this, according to the same report, is our increased exposure to certain chemicals known as endocrine disrupters (EDC’s) in our environment. This is a subject that we’ve been very mindful of at ecostore and we were very interested when Dr. Kathleen Wills offered to come and talk to us about her many years of research into endocrine disrupters and how they can affect our health. In her Auckland Integrative Medical practice Dr Kathleen said she’s noticed 3 growing trends:
- There are more young women with endometriosis. Endometriosis is a condition in the uterus where there is a build up of extra uterus or endometriol lining which causes heavy periods, cramps and is often very painful and sometimes debilitating. Endometriosis can also lead to infertility or difficulty getting pregnant.
- There are more men who have breast enlargement and a protruding belly which is often caused by an excess of the female hormone, oestrogen.
- There are more children reaching early puberty, as young as 7 and 8 years old.
Parents are understandably worried; they don’t know if this is normal. It isn’t and after ruling out standard medical conditions that might have led to these problems, Dr Kathleen tests for toxicity and hormonal balance.
Exposure to EDCs in the products we use every day
We typically apply around 475 chemicals to our bodies on a daily basis from deodorant to nail varnish, lipstick, perfume, foundation, body lotion, fake tan and more. Many of these products contain EDC’s which are toxic to our hormonal balance.
What are hormones for?
Our hormones regulate different systems in the body including muscle mass, body temperature, clear skin, confidence, sleep, vitality, energy and moods as well as bone and heart health. Hormones can become unbalanced due to genetic factors which are beyond our control but in the majority of cases, these problems can be linked to EDC’s found in our environment.
What else can happen when our hormones are out of balance?
Dr Kathleen has seen cases of excessive hair growth in women which is often linked to excess testosterone, acne on the chin which can be from too much oestrogen as well as women with thinning hair which can be linked to thyroid conditions (also linked to hormones). As the WHO report states, there are currently 800 known chemicals that can disrupt our hormonal balance. The issue with this is we haven’t actually tested many of these chemicals for safety for our babies or our children.
The mosts sensitive windows of exposure to EDC’s:
- Before birth: Babies haven’t yet developed their blood brain barrier to protect the brain from toxins. As a result, any toxins that the mother is exposed to can potentially affect the cognitive development of her baby in the first few years of life. Babies in the womb also don’t have a protective protein surrounding their organs which means they can also be affected by toxins.
- Puberty: Children and young people are more prone to take in and absorb toxins during puberty.
- In the womb: The EWG (Environmental Working Group) tested the umbilical chord blood of 3 newborns and found 157 toxic chemicals in the umbilical chord blood including fire retardants, pesticides and BPA from plastics.
What can we do? Shop wisely - avoid products that contain these endocrine disrupting chemicals:
- Parabens - these can be listed as Methyl Parabens, Propyl Parabens or Butyl Parabens
- Bisphenol-A - look for ‘BPA free’ plastics and avoid canned foods or touching shopping receipts which have BPA in the coating
- Pthalates - these are not usually listed but are found in synthetic fragrances so its a good idea to choose natural essential oil fragrances or fragrance free products if you’re particularly sensitive
- Chlorine in tampons and sanitary pads
- Oxybenzone - found in sunscreen lotions
- Avoid fruits and vegetables that can have an oestrogenic affect like soy and soy based products
It’s important, if you have any concerns, to get yourself tested by a trusted health care professional for toxicity as well as hormonal imbalances.
We came across an article that sums up a rather complex issue in a very clear and simple way. The issue we’re talking about is how certain chemicals can interfere with our hormones and why that’s a cause for concern, not only for ourselves but also for our children.
Here’s what’s in the article:
- What the endocrine system is and important it is for growth and development as well as for regulating the important stuff like sleep, stress and digestion
- What EDCs are - basically they’re chemicals that mimic hormones and can create hormonal imbalance in your body
- How EDC’s can harm you from sleep disorders to fertility problems and even cancer
- The names of some of the most common EDC’s - including BPA and Triclosan and what sorts of products they can be found in
- How we’re exposed to these chemicals in our everyday lives through the products we use, the air we breathe and through the types of food and water we ingest
- An extensive list of references should you like to read more about the science behind the article
- A list of ways you can reduce your exposure to these chemicals including avoiding antibacterial products and not giving your kids soft plastic teethers or toys
The article is called ‘How Endocrine Disrupters Are Messing You Up + 9 Things You Can Do’ by Natutal Beauty Expert and Cancer Survivor, Britta Aragon and you can read it here.
State of the Science of Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals 2012 http://www.unep.org/pdf/WHO_HSE_PHE_IHE_2013.1_eng.pdf
Dr. Kathleen Wills http://drkathleenwills.com/
Nasty chemical of the month: Parabens