The Dirty Dozen list of worst endocrine-disrupting chemicals released in October 2013 names ingredients that can be found in rocket fuel, brake fluid, flame retardants, herbicides and non-stick frying pans, as well as notorious carcinogens and neurotoxins such as lead, arsenic and mercury. It was put out by the nonprofit Environmental Working Group and the Keep-A-Breast Foundation.
These chemicals, found in water, food and consumer products like food cans, plastic containers and fragrances, are linked to cancer, birth defects, lower sperm count, lower IQ, and thyroid disease among others. The guide suggests the best ways to avoid these substances are to eat organic foods, drink filtered water, and avoid products containing fragrances.
But hormone disrupting chemicals are so prevalent in today's world that it is nearly impossible to eliminate contact with them. There are 980 of them. The solution is for government regulation to stop their release in the market altogether.
Some of the worst hormone disruptors are:
- Dioxin disrupts receptors in charge of development in the womb, the way the digestive system works and puberty. Low level exposure in the womb and as babies can permanently affect sperm quality and lower sperm count. Eat fewer animal products like meat, fish, milk, eggs and butter to decrease exposure.
- Bisphenol A (BPA), which now shows up as a "BPA-free" label on more water bottles and baby products and a few BPA-free cans, is linked to estrogen and breast cancer even before birth. Every year about 6 billion pounds of BPA are produced globablly, and it is still common in plastics and food can liners and found in 93 percent of Americans.
- Phthalates found in pharmaceuticals, cosmetics and flexible plastics like vinyl shower curtains, vinyl floors and other building materials, toys, food packaging and cars, leach into the environment where humans get exposed. Of particular concern is decreased testosterone levels in baby boys where they may be become more feminized. Phthalates are banned from toys in 10 countries in the European Union.
- Flame retardants/PBDEs over 1.5 million tons are used yearly in furniture with polyurethane foam which gets released in dust. Polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) are the most studied and are linked to diminished intelligence and delayed development.
- Arsenic, mercury, lead glycol ethers and perfluorinated chemicals can become hormone disruptors.
Very low levels can harm the human body by mimicking or blocking natural hormone messengers responsible for sleep, metabolism, growth and reproduction. Even tiny amounts can profoundly affect the body by changing the natural hormone balance with devastating consequences and be passed down to later generations.
A January 2013 study of rats exposed to BPA showed "significant increases" in pubertal abnormalities, obesity and disease of ovary and testes in third generations. In October 2013, a study was released that DDT insecticide may have been part of the obesity of rats three generations after being exposed.
Endocrine disruptor researcher Laura Vandenberg, University of Massachusetts, Amherst, who spent years studying BPA, is frustrated by the influence of industry to slow the pace of policies banning the chemicals. "If you look at how much money, time and effort has gone into this one chemical, it's ridiculous. We know enough about this chemical. We know its effects at low doses. We know its concerning effects on organs. The evidence is overwhelming."
Andrea Gore commented in the September 2013 issue of Endocrinology about the thousands of studies published and reviews by the United Nations and World Health Organization showing endocrine disruptors are "active at very low doses and can induce a range of adverse health outcomes many of which are not examined in traditional toxicology assays. We've understood for some time the importance of having normal hormone levels. We need the right levels at the right times to lead healthy lives."
The Endocrine Disruptor Exchange released an updated chart in 2013 which identifies critical development windows where the growing fetus is very susceptible to tiny amounts of mimicking hormones.
Currently the burden of poof is on the EPA to show that an industrial chemical is unsafe before it can ask a company for data or require testing to prove that there is a potential risk. There is a stalemate in congress between the chemical industry's concern for profit with Chemical Safety Improvement Act senate bill s.1009 and safety advocates wanting public protection with the Safe Chemicals Act of 2013 s.696. In 2013, 29 states introduced their own policies to reduce exposure to these chemicals. When enough consumers and policy makers speak out, companies make changes.
Read the Dirty Dozen list for more specifics on the top 12 hormone altering chemicals and watch the attached video for an in-depth explanation of the issue.