Men's Health, Women's Health | May 16, 2018 | Author: Naturopath
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!
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.
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 .
When 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 .
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.
BPA plastics and resins are often used in:
Animal studies have shown that the endocrine disruption caused by BPA can include changes to dopamine function ; reversal of sex characteristics ; and increased anxiety – plus, these changes can impact up to three future generations .
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.” 
Phthalates are chemicals that are added to plastics to improve their flexibility, durability and transparency.
Phthalates have been linked to thyroid irregularities, reproductive issues, and studies suggest that early exposure may disrupt sexual development in male infants . 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 .
Parabens are preserving agents that prevent mould, bacteria and other pathogens from growing. They are found in:
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!).  
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 .
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 Food Standards Australia New Zealand (2018) Bisphenol-A (BPA). http://www.foodstandards.gov.au/consumer/chemicals/bpa/Pages/default.aspx
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