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Endocrine Disruptors + Plastics = Health Issues

Written by

Deborah Freudenmann BHSc

Each and every day you are exposed to specific chemicals that impact your endocrine and hormonal systems. Although that isn’t good news, far from it, but once you know and understand what changes can be made to limit your exposure you ultimately have the power to take action.

That’s right! You are constantly exposed to and bombarded with endocrine disruptors.

Endocrine disruptors are chemicals (they can also come from natural sources, like soy) that interfere with your hormonal system by mimicking it. This can happen in different ways. Some copy a natural hormone, tricking the body to respond or respond at inappropriate times. Some block your hormones from having effect, or they directly stimulate your endocrine system, causing an overproduction or underproduction of hormones in your body.

The accumulated effects of these disruptions are huge! Endocrine disruptors have been related to fertility problems, underdevelopment and behavioral abnormalities in children, as well as the development of cancer.

Endocrine disruptors can cause harm to your body even long after exposure has stopped, extending throughout your life time, and even influencing future generations.

PCBs and dioxins in pesticides, flame retardants in paint and furniture, phytoestrogens in soy and other foods, phthalates in bottles, triclosan in personal care products, are just some examples of the long list of sources for endocrine disruptors that contaminate our lives.

Plastic is a large culprit in this department. Plastic contamination in our environment and oceans has reached unprecedented levels with particular concern surrounding micro plastic particles.

Microplastics comprise of tiny fibres from nylon clothes and other synthetic textiles. They can also come from fragments of larger plastic items that have broken down in the natural environment. Micro-plastics are already in all of our drinking water and bodies. These tiny particles of plastic have been found to absorb toxic chemicals linked to cancer development and other diseases. As plastic waste doesn’t biodegrade, instead it breaks down into smaller pieces of itself, down to nanometer scale…. Research has proven that particles of this size migrate through intestinal walls and travel to lymph nodes, bodily organs and glands alike.

So, we know that endocrine disruptors can be present in all forms, shapes and sizes… from our soil, to our shampoo and everything in between. I think it’s safe to say that we all agree that plastic and endocrine disruptors are toxic and best avoided but HOW? This is often why individuals become overwhelmed and don’t know where to begin.

I’m here to tell you that you don’t have to have it all figured out! NO ONE is perfectly eco-conscious – remember we don’t need a couple of people living 100% sustainably, what the world needs is ALL of us collectively making small but continuous changes. Yes, every single change or impact matters. I believe eliminating plastics, chemicals and toxic endocrine disruptors from our lives is a gradual process, and the very first step is becoming CONCIOUS of what we are doing.

How can we try to limit our exposure?

  • Say NO to receipts
    Thermal paper is often coated with Bisphenol A (BPA) and has been found to travel from receipts to skin and can penetrate the skin to such a depth that it cannot be washed off. It can also travel from receipts onto our fingers and then onto food we touch or our face and mouth. Frequent exposures to relatively large amounts of BPA in receipts are an obvious concern to every shopper, but even more so to the thousands of people who staff cash registers and bag groceries handling hundreds of receipts day.

  • Avoid BPA, BPS & Polycarbonate
    BPA is a chemical produced in large quantities for use primarily in the production of polycarbonate plastics and epoxy resins. Polycarbonate plastics have many applications including use in some food and drink packaging and epoxy resins are used as lacquers… BPA and any plastics marked “PC” for polycarbonate are best avoided. In addition, due to the rise in awareness surrounding BPA, Bisphenol S (BPS) came in its replacement and is also an endocrine disruptor best avoided.
    Don’t forget to avoid plastic children’s toys!!!

  • Get a reusable water bottle
    Stop using single use plastic bottles and invest in a reusable or glass bottle that you LOVE

  • Filtered water
    Ensure you are drinking clean and fresh water without all the nasties! Buy a water filter to remove or reduce chemicals from your tap water or purchase local spring water

  • Coffee cup
    They look great, are easy to clean, good for the environment and more and more cafes are starting to offer discounts when you rock up with your own non-toxic cup!

  • Grocery bags
    Plastic bags are incredibly dangerous for our environment and wildlife as they are easily ingested by animals. The easy solution… bring your OWN reusable bag to the grocery store. Yes, sometimes we forget to take them with you but a little tip is to leave some in the back of your car.

  • Rubbish bags
    If using rubbish bags or bags to line your bin, opt for certified compostable and biodegradable bags or simply wash out your bin regularly and avoid all bags!

  • Glass jars
    Never heat food in the can or plastic – transfer to a glass container! Plastic leaches into your food when heated which is something to avoid.

  • Avoid cans
    Substitute canned food for fresh goods. Cans are lined with BPA and phthalates which more often than not leech in and contaminate the food

  • Keep cutlery nearby
    We all love to eat a good meal – sometimes we are out and about ordering takeaway and in the need for cutlery… keep a good quality re-usable set in your car to whip out when necessary. Often we can’t avoid the plastic take away packaging but we can certainly do our best to limit plastic usage.

  • Cling foil
    We’ve all been there and done that. Cling foil a single-use plastic film that isn’t recyclable or biodegradable. In a world of convenience, it is easy to turn to something like cling foil, however there are some excellent alternatives! Beeswax wraps or food grade silicon are excellent.

  • Read ingredient labels
    Avoid products that list phthalates as an ingredient as well as those that list “fragrance”

  • Fragrance
    We all love to smell great and perfumes are one of those luxurious items we find tricky to part with. But I’m here to tell you that you don’t… there are several companies out there that offer organic/natural and non-toxic perfumes and colognes without all the nasties. Of course you can also use essential oils or create a mixture yourself!

  • Buy in bulk!
    Not only a costly alternative but also sustainable and eco-friendly. Find a local bulk store where you can re-fill your glass jars or containers with nuts, seeds, grains, oils, granola, flour… it’s also a great place to find cooking inspiration!

  • Buy organic produce
    Avoid all the pesticides, herbicides and chemicals sprayed onto your fruits and vegetables! Instead try to buy as much as possible local at your farmer’s markets.

  • In the kitchen
    Use metal and wooden eating and cooking utensils instead of plastic! Do not use nonstick pans and kitchen utensils that are manufactures with PFAS chemicals

  • Stay away from VOCs
    Skip those treatments on carpets and furniture. Many of these treatments are made with endocrine disturbing chemicals. In addition, ensure you are selecting a good quality mattress as you spend presumably 8 hours each day. This is really important as both furniture, carpets and mattresses are “off-gassing” chemicals and can be dangerous for our health.

  • Cleaning products
    There are countless brands all over the world that produce healthy nontoxic, chemical and fragrance free cleaning products/detergents. Ensuring that your clothing and bedsheets aren’t washed with a highly perfumed chemical product which you wear on your skin. And not to mention, your plates and kitchen utensils.

  • Menstrual products
    The first step is swapping out your pads and tampons for “organic” cotton tampons/pads – we certainly don’t want chemicals down there! The next step is a menstrual cup – these are organic reusable cups made from medical grade silicone or period undies to further aid in eco-friendly sustainability.

Of course there are many other options to add to my list above! Regardless of where you are at in your journey, I believe we all have the power to make small individual changes to not only reduce our exposure to endocrine disruptors but do our part for the planet. We all have the power to make more thoughtful decisions to benefit our environment, our health and ultimately our bank account!

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