The Fit Life in Words
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Here's a riddle: What do nonstick pans, corn, plastic kids' toys, and lipstick tubes all have in common? Each could be hiding endocrine disruptors--potentially toxic chemicals that can interfere with your body's endocrine (hormone) system.
Interfere how, you ask? Pretty much any way you can imagine. These chemicals can increase, decrease, block, or imitate certain hormones, or alter how these hormones work in the body, according to the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences.
To lower your exposure, avoid these 12 chemical compounds--what the Environmental Working Group calls the "Dirty Dozen" of endocrine disruptors.
What is it? A chemical that mimics estrogen and is used to make some plastics and resins.
Where it's hiding: The inside lining of some canned goods, most thermal paper used for receipts, and polycarbonate plastics marked with recycling label No. 7.
PERFLUORINATED CHEMICALS (PFCs)
What are they? Chemicals added to nonstick cookware, clothing, upholstery, tents, and more for their ability to repel water and resist stains. One compound, perfluorooctanoic acid, is completely nonbiodegradable and has been linked to kidney disease, low sperm count, thyroid disease, and other illnesses.
Where they're hiding: Water-resistant clothing, furniture, and some nonstick pans.
What is it? An herbicide widely used on corn crops that has been linked to the feminization of male frogs. (Even low levels of exposure have been shown to turn male frogs into egg-laying females.)
Where it's hiding: Corn products and drinking water.
What is it? A toxic chemical that interferes with the hormones cortisol and insulin. It has also been linked to skin, bladder, and lung cancer.
Where it's hiding: Drinking water and processed foods.
What are they? Plastic-softening chemicals that have been linked to premature death of testicular cells. The National Toxicology Program warns that one type of phthalate may damage human development, while another type is likely to be a human carcinogen.
Where they're hiding: Plastic food containers, plastic toys, and some personal care products.
What are they? Chemicals that are used to make products less flammable, known as polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs). Some can imitate thyroid hormones.
Where they're hiding: Some foam furniture, house dust, and carpet padding.
What is it? A heavy metal that has been linked to decreased levels of sex hormones, lowered IQ, hearing loss, miscarriage, and premature birth.
Where it's hiding: Some older paints and pipes, and drinking water.
What are they? Pesticides toxic to the nervous systems of insects. They have also been linked to decreased testosterone and altered thyroid hormones in humans.
Where they're hiding: Most conventionally farmed produce.
What is it? A toxic metal that can build up in the fetal brain and interfere with development. It also binds to hormones that regulate menstruation.
Where it's hiding: Some fish, such as shark, king mackerel, swordfish, and tuna.
What is it? A chemical formed during manufacturing that has the potential to disrupt sex hormones. Exposure early in life can also decrease sperm quality and quantity.
Where it's hiding: Animal products including meat, fish, milk, and eggs.
What is it? A chemical used in rocket fuel that becomes airborne and can interfere with thyroid hormones.
Where it's hiding: Drinking water, produce, and milk.
What are they? Solvents that the European Union says can damage fertility. Studies also show that workers exposed to them have lower sperm counts.
Where they're hiding: Paints, cleaning products, and cosmetics.
Don't be paranoid; just be aware. Your long term health is everything.