The effect of hormone disruptors was first noticed in wildlife, but is now being observed in humans, for example, in the worldwide decline in sperm count.
Over 100,000 synthetic chemicals are now in widespread use but this is still very recent in terms of evolution.
It has been more than 80 years since toxic chemicals such as PCBs and DDT were introduced. The first generation of children exposed to these chemicals in the womb has recently reached reproductive age, and we are seeing more and more hormone problems and infertility. In fact, most people have been exposed to dangerous chemical toxins throughout their life.
Our waterways contain residues of birth control pills, antidepressants, painkillers, shampoos and many other chemical compounds. Pharmaceutical and personal care products (PPCPs) are entering rivers from sewage treatment plants or leaching into groundwater from septic systems.
Most of these substances are not checked for their effects on health, including fertility.
Examples of chemicals that act as hormone disruptors
- Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) – now banned, but traces can still be found in pesticides, electrical transformers, hydraulic fluid, compressors, varnishes, inks, flame resistors, carbonless copy paper and even some cosmetics.
- Heavy metals (lead, mercury, cadmium, arsenic, nickel) – present in cigarette smoke, paints, plastics, batteries, water pipes, dental fillings, fluorescent lights, large fish, cosmetics and treated pine.
- Organochlorines and many other pesticides – including insecticides, fungicides and herbicides.
- Parabens – found in deodorants.
- Butylated hydroxyanosole (BHA) and alkyl phenol ethoxylates -present in many foods as well as paints, plastics, toiletries, cosmetics, some medications, cleaning products, spermicides, polystyrene and PCV, herbicides and pesticides.
- Dioxins – by-product of chlorine bleaching from industry (pulp mills, etc) and present in sanitary products and disposable nappies; linked to endometriosis.
- Bisphenol A, DEHP (di-ethyl hexyl phthalate) – plasticizers present in flexible plastics e.g. PVC and polycarbonate plastics, cellophane, cling wrap/cling film, plastic bags, drink bottles, take-away containers, linings in food cans.
- Other phthalates – present in seatbelts, hose pipes, plastic dental fillings, moisturisers, hairsprays, insect repellents, solvents, coatings on time-released medicines, soap, shampoo, detergents.
- Car pollution.
- Other – chlorine bleaches, petrol combustion by-products, dieldrin, atrazine and methylchlor.
Safeguarding yourself from hormone disruptors
Apart from drinking filtered water and eating organic food, there is not a lot we can do in terms of avoidance. The best advice is to regularly detoxify your system of these residues.
- Purify all drinking water with a good quality purifier, including water used to wash fruit and vegetables and water boiled in a kettle. Hormonal residue from the urine of animals and women taking the oral contraceptive pill makes its way, along with most of the other substances mentioned, into our water supplies.
- Buy organically grown and fed foods, as animal fat is a reservoir for these toxins.
- Avoid seafood that is not from the river or the coast (especially crustaceans and other bottom dwellers) as these may be exposed to industrial or agricultural run-off.
- Also avoid large fish such as swordfish, as these are at the top of the food chain and may be high in heavy metals, especially mercury.
- Store food in glass, ceramic or stainless steel containers (or even rigid, non-flexible plastic), especially if hot, fatty, liquid or acidic.
- Don’t microwave!
- Avoid using pesticides, toxic paint and bleaches. Use only environmentally-friendly cleaning products.
- Don’t apply deodorant immediately after shaving.
- Replace amalgam or plastic teeth fillings with porcelain or even gold. There are also some plastic fillings that don’t contain phthalates.
- Replace bleached tampons and sanitary pads with cotton/hemp reusable pads, or even organic tampons (though these should be reserved for high-need occasions, as restricting blood flow may have implications for endometriosis).
- Avoid sanding back old, lead-containing paints or treated pine.
- Test for heavy metal contamination (through hair analysis, electro-dermal or urine). If found, use high-level antioxidants e.g. selenium, zinc, Vitamin C, humic acid and liver support to detoxify and chelate heavy metals.
- Avoid drinking hot drinks from Styrofoam cups as they are a potent source of Bisphenol A.