The EWG Has A New Type Of Dirty Dozen List

Hormones control who we are, how we respond to the world, and how all of our cells know what to do. There are trillions of hormone signals being sent throughout your body on a daily basis. Most of us think of hormones in terms of the organ systems that they will affect. The hormones I most commonly work with are associated with the sex organs (estrogen, progesterone, testosterone and DHEA) along with thyroid and cortisol. In my world these three systems either play nice with each other while helping to support the body, or they all fight causing us to have hormonal imbalance.

As a Naturopathic doctor I am always trying to get to the root cause of what is going on with my patients. When it comes to the hormones, it is often hard to know exactly what is the root cause of the hormone imbalance as it can be lifestyle, diet, chemical, or even an internal lack of chemical signal. Therefore when it comes to balancing hormones I need to address more than just the hormones with my patients. I often have my patients make a lifestyle change as how we are living can also interrupt our hormones.

The Environmental Workers Group has come up with their dirty dozen list of endocrine disruptors. These chemicals will either increase or decrease production of the hormones, they will sit on hormone receptors so that the hormone cannot signal, bind to the hormones, accumulate in the body, or interfere with other hormones by turning them on or off. The hormones have their very precise dance that keeps everything working as it should. Below I will go through the dirty dozen endocrine disruptors.

  1. BPA - BPA imitates estrogen in the body, therefore it has been linked to breast cancer, other reproductive cancers, obesity, early puberty, and heart disease. From, “93 percent of Americans have BPA in their bodies!” Avoid it by using fresh food (as cans are lined with BPA), avoid plastics (glass water bottles or stainless steel bottles), and receipts at stores as they are often coated with BPA.
  2. Dioxin - “Recent research has shown that exposure to low levels of dioxin in the womb and early in life can both permanently affect sperm quality and lower the sperm count in men during their prime reproductive years.” In females it also disrupts hormone signaling. Dioxins have a long half life, and can build up in the body, and our food chain thus causing long term damage for us as well as our children/grandchildren.  Since Dioxin is a big part of the industrial release, it is found everywhere including meat, fish, milk, eggs, and butter. You can help to lower your exposure by eating less animal products.  
  3. 3. Atrazine - This herbicide has been seen to turn a male frog into a female frog that is able to produce eggs. In humans it has been linked to breast tumors, prostate inflammation, and delayed puberty. Atrazine is used on most of the corn crops thus avoid it by buying organic foods, and getting a water filter that removes it from your drinking water.
  4. Phthalates - These can trigger early cell death to the male sex organs (along with decreased sperm quality, and performance), obesity, and diabetes. Phthalates can be found in plastic food containers, toys, plastic wrap, and personal care products. Remember that these items can also get into the body through topical application.
  5. Perchlorate - This is a chemical found in rocket fuel which has contaminated milk, and our water supplies. It will interfere with iodine which is vital for a healthy functioning thyroid. Help your thyroid by getting a reverse osmosis water filter, eating foods with natural iodine, and using iodized salt as needed. If you are concerned about your iodine levels let your doctor know as they can test your levels.
  6. Fire retardants - These are used to help keep things from burning, of course, but these chemicals are finding their way into breast milk, brain tissue, and animals around the world. Beds and furniture are sprayed in fire retardants, and they are also found in children’s pjs. When looking for beds consider an organic mattress that does not contain fire retardants. These are usually foam mattresses. Also, using a HEPA filter can cut down on toxin-laced dust around your house.
  7. Lead - This is a nasty little heavy metal that likes to stores itself everywhere in your body and your bones. Lead has been “linked to a staggering array of health effects, including permanent brain damage, lowered IQ, hearing loss, miscarriage, premature birth, increased blood pressure, kidney damage and nervous system problems.” Lead can also affect our stress regulation ability as well as increase risk of high blood pressure, diabetes, anxiety, and depression. Lead has been found in drinking water, but is also found in lead based paints, of course, and so checking your house for lead paint is wise. If found in your home’s paint then professional services will be required for removal.
  8. Arsenic - High levels cause death. Low levels have been linked to cancers which can also lead to death. Arsenic will affect the bodies ability to process sugar and carbohydrates thus can cause weight gain, protein wasting, immuno-suppression, osteoporosis, and high blood pressure. This is where a good water filter is going to be needed as arsenic is found in our water supply. Arsenic is also found in rice.
  9. 9. Mercury - This is a naturally existing metal, however, too much can cause hormone issues. It can interfere with women’s menstrual cycles and ovulation. Mercury has been found in fetal brains, and can interfere with brain development as a result. Mercury is found in high levels in certain fish. So try eating fish that have been found to have lower levels of mercury along with eating wild fish rather than the farm raised equivalent.
  10. Perfluorinated chemicals (PFCs) - These chemicals can be found in the non-stick coating of cookware. “Perfluorochemicals are so widespread and extraordinarily persistent that 99 percent of Americans have these chemicals in their bodies. One particularly notorious compound called PFOA has been shown to be ‘completely resistant to biodegradation.’ In other words, PFOA doesn’t break down in the environment – ever.” PFC’s have been linked to a decrease in sperm quality, low birth weight, thyroid disease, and countless other non-normalities. Avoid this chemical by skipping the non-stick pans, and items with water-resistant coating.
  11. Organophosphate pesticides - These pesticides target the nervous system of insects. They also target testosterone, and its ability to communicate with cells. It is also found to lower testosterone and thyroid levels. Buying and eating organic produce will help minimize your exposure to organophosphate pesticides.
  12. Glycol Ethers - These are found in, or partially comprise, paint solvents (and solvents in paints), cleaning products, brake fluid, car coolant, and cosmetics. What this means is that technically cosmetics can contain chemicals used to clean toxic materials. “The European Union says that some of these chemicals ‘may damage fertility or the unborn child.’” Check out what your cleaning and household products have in them, and consider making cleaning products at home with less toxic ingredients. Grandma did seem to know best when she taught you to clean with vinegar and water.

So wow! This list can certainly be overwhelming, but this is also the price we pay for our negligence and ignorance of what our U.S. chemical companies having been getting away with all of these years. Look at the things that you have around yourself, your family, your work, and most importantly your home. My advice is to make small changes at a time so that you are not overwhelmed by the process. You will find it difficult to eliminate or reduce the existence of these chemicals from your life, but just remember that they have a long lasting impact on your health as motivation.