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Endocrine Disruptors

Men's Health, Women's Health | May 16, 2018 | Author: Naturopath

men, general, women's health

Endocrine Disruptors

What's the hype about BPA-free water bottles? Endocrine disruptors are found in plastics, foods, water and even receipts. Here's what they are, what they can do, and how to avoid them!

Endocrine System

The endocrine system is made of glands, hormones and hormone receptors. It interacts directly with every other body system, particularly the nervous and immune systems, but also has a huge impact on digestion, cognition, and In a way, the endocrine system is a command centre, or Mission Control for the majority of the body's functions.

Glands: The tissue structures that secrete hormones. For example, the adrenals, thyroid and the ovaries are all glands. Others include the pituitary, hypothalamus, testes, parathyroid, and pineal glands. There are other hormone-producing structures that aren't technically glands but are also part of the endocrine system; e.g. the gastrointestinal tract, kidneys, heart, thymus, skin, and fatty tissue. Endocrine disruptors affect all of these tissues, and more.

Hormones: Chemical messengers created by endocrine glands and structures to control major bodily functions. There are over fifty hormones in the human body – sex hormones such as oestrogen and testosterone, and others such as insulin to control blood sugar, and secretin which controls the release of digestive fluids. Even vitamin D is considered a hormone!

Receptors: For hormones to have any effect on the body, they must first connect with cellular receptors. They are kind of like a lock, and the hormones are the key. Hormone receptors are specific to particular hormones – you need the right key to unlock the desired reaction.

Endocrine Disruptors

An endocrine disruptor is any substance that interferes with the function of glands, the creation and secretion of hormones, the function of receptors, or the ability for hormones to exert their effects on the body. They can also block the excretion of hormones, and cause unwanted endocrine effects [1].

Endocrine disruptors -

  • create a response that is more powerful than the original hormone
  • create a less powerful response
  • create a completely different response

Endocrine DisruptorsWhen people warn against endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs), they are generally talking about synthetic chemicals, plastics, fungicides and pharmaceutical agents.

But some natural chemicals found in food also act on, and disrupt, the endocrine system – for example, genistein found in soy may disrupt oestrogen hormones [2].

Natural and man-made endocrine disruptors are commonly found in:

  • Food and drink
  • Furniture
  • Food preparation surfaces and containers
  • Drinking water
  • Pesticides and herbicides
  • Cosmetics and beauty products

Exposure to endocrine disruptors is different for everyone, depending on where you live and what you eat. The landscape is constantly changing as some EDCs become banned in certain countries and others are created by new manufacturing processes. Despite the constantly growing and shrinking numbers of EDCs, we've narrowed down the top 3 most common and potentially harmful EDCs, where to find them, and how to avoid them:


Bisphenol A or BPA is a chemical used to make some sealants such as polycarbonates and epoxy resins – the types of plastics often used to line some types of food and beverage packaging. It is known to be a xenoestrogen – a chemical that disrupts oestrogen hormone levels.

Endocrine DisruptorsBPA plastics and resins are often used in commonly used products.

  • Food cans
  • Water bottles
  • Lids of glass jars of condiments, baby food, pickles, jam etc.
  • Aerosol cans
  • Bottles and tins of cooking oils
  • Aluminium beverage cans and beer kegs
  • Receipt paper

Animal studies have shown that the endocrine disruption caused by BPA can include changes to dopamine function [5]; reversal of sex characteristics [6]; and increased anxiety – plus, these changes can impact up to three future generations [3].

NOTE: The levels used in these animal studies are likely to be much higher than most people would be exposed to on a daily basis. Food Standards Australia New Zealand state that there is no public health and safety concerns at the level of BPA most people are exposed to. The tolerable daily intake of BPAs is much higher than. According to FSANZ, “a nine-month-old baby weighing 9 kg would have to eat more than 1 kg of canned baby custard containing BPA every day to reach the TDI, assuming that the custard contained the highest level of BPA found (420 parts per billion) in a survey by CHOICE.” [4]


Phthalates are chemicals that are added to plastics to improve their flexibility, durability and transparency.

Found in:

  • Perfumes and air fresheners
  • Personal care items containing “fragrance” as an ingredient
  • Plastic wrap
  • Soft toys
  • Plastic food containers
  • Vinyl flooring and furniture covers

Endocrine DisruptorsPhthalates have been linked to thyroid irregularities, reproductive issues, and studies suggest that early exposure may disrupt sexual development in male infants [1]. Animal studies on phthalates such as DEHP have shown that they may cause early onset puberty. They may also disrupt signals from insulin and glucagon – hormones that control blood control and are linked to diabetes, obesity and metabolic disease [1].


Parabens are preserving agents that prevent mould, bacteria and other pathogens from growing.  They are found in:

  • Lipsticks
  • Foundation
  • Deodorant
  • Shampoo & conditioner
  • Food preservatives
  • Antimicrobial hand wash

Parabens have been banned in the European Union since 2012. These chemicals are able to enter the body through the skin and are noted oestrogen-disruptors. Parabens have been found in both breast cancer and prostate cancer tissue and studies have shown that they can affect the weight of the uterus, alter sexual behaviour, and reduce male fertility. Parabens found in cosmetics have even been linked to chronic skin conditions (including premature ageing!).  [7] [9][10]

Other endocrine disruptors include:

  • Glycol esthers – Found in paints, cleaning products and cosmetics.
  • Organophosphate pesticides – Used on many food crops.
  • Perfluorinated chemicals – Added to non-stick cookware and fast food containers.
  • Heavy metals like mercury and lead - Found in some meat, fish and drinking water.
  • Polybrominated diphenyl esthers – Fire retardants added to furniture, clothes and carpets.

Beyond the Body – Environmental Impact

Beyond the human body, endocrine disruptors also have major impacts on the health of the environment. Ecosystems can come under threat from exposure to high levels of endocrine disruptors – for example, a recent study found that even the endocrine systems of fish are affected by BPAs [8].

How to Avoid Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals:

  • Never heat food in plastic. Heat encourages chemicals to seep from the plastic and cling to fats found in foods. Use
  • How to Avoid Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals:Ditch the take-away coffee cup. Get yourself a glass keep cup to avoid BPAs and phthalates leeching into your cuppa!
  • Say 'no thanks!' to sales receipts. Glossy lacquers used on shiny receipts contain EDCs. If you need receipts for tax, scan them and ditch the original.
  • Limit intake of meat and fatty fish. ECDs don't just affect humans – they affect animals too, and are stored in their muscle and fat.
  • Choose paraben-free cosmetic and beauty products.
    Click Here for futher reading about natural make-up 
    Click Here for futher reading about coconut oil
  • Eat organic produce whenever you can to avoid pesticide exposure.
  • Don't use plastic wrap to cover foods. Try beeswax or papyrus wraps.
  • Use stainless steel cookware and utensils instead of non-stick versions.

Click Here for further reading  Australia’s best online discount chemist


[1] Diamanti-Kandarakis, E., et al. (2009) Endocrine-Disrupting Chemicals: An Endocrine Society Scientific Statement. Endocr Rev., 30:4, 293 – 342.  


[3] Hiyama, M., et al. (2011) Bisphenol-A (BPA) affects reproductive formation across generations in mice. Journal of Veterinary Medicine, 73:9.

[4] Food Standards Australia New Zealand (2018) Bisphenol-A (BPA).

[5] Kawai, K., et al. (2003) Aggressive behavior and serum testosterone concentration during the maturation process of male mice: the effects of fetal exposure to bisphenol A. Environ Health Perspective., 111:2, 175 – 178.

[6] Mileva, G., et al. (2014) Bisphenol-A: Epigenetic Reprogramming and Effects on Reproduction and Behavior. Int J Environ Res Public Health, 11:7, 7537 – 7561.

[7] Engeli, R. T., et al. (2017) Interference of Paraben Compounds with Estrogen Metabolism by Inhibition of 17β-Hydroxysteroid Dehydrogenases. Int Journal Molec Sci., 18.

[8] Canesi, L. & Fabbri, E. (2015) Environmental Effects of BPA – Focus on Aquatic Species. Dose Response, 13:3,

[9] Tavares, R. S., et al. (2009) Parabens in male infertility-is there a mitochondrial connection? Reprod Toxicol., 27:1, 1 – 7.

[10] Golden, R., et al. (2008) A Review of the Endocrine Activity of Parabens and Implications for Potential Risks to Human Health. Critical Reviews Toxicol., 35:5,

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