The medical team of doctors at GlobeMed, the leading healthcare benefits management company in the Middle East, has conducted a literature review on the effects of Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals (EDC) and their interference with the body hormones. The review was supervised by Dr. Elia Abdul Massih, Goodcare Clinics Director, and prepared by Dr. Karen Abou Jaoude, Population Health Specialist. It demonstrated that even at low levels of exposure, EDCs can induce adverse health effects, contributing significantly to the development of diseases such as cancers, asthma, diabetes, genital defects and obesity. Furthermore, the review established six easy ways to decrease exposure to these harmful chemicals.
EDCs are exogenous chemicals or mixtures that can interfere with hormone actions in our bodies in a negative way. Hormones are messengers released from endocrine glands in the body necessary for our healthy survival. EDCs can be found in many everyday products, including some plastic bottles and containers, liners of metal food cans, detergents, flame retardants, food, toys, cosmetics, pesticides, natural estrogen and progesterone, plastic, hormonally active drugs and synthetic hormones. This array of products confirms that we are exposed daily to low doses of EDCs without even suspecting or realizing it. Some of these chemicals include but are not limited to:
- Bisphenol A (BPA): used to make plastic products including food storage containers
- Perchlorate: a by-product found in drinking water and fireworks
- Perfluoroalkyl and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS): used widely in industrial applications, such as firefighting foams and non-stick pan, paper, and textile coatings
EDCs can induce harmful effects by either changing the amount of hormones available or interfering with their corresponding receptors. This has resulted in the increasing prevalence of many endocrine diseases such as diabetes and obesity. For diseases to occur, there is always an interplay of genetic and environmental factors. Therefore, it is essential to try and control our environment by limiting exposure to such chemicals as much as possible. In this vein, it is recommended to follow six simple steps to reduce contact with EDCs and diminish their harmful effects:
- Eat organic foods to avoid pesticides. Choose organically grown fruits and vegetables to limit pesticide exposure. Start with the “dirty dozen” which, if grown conventionally, harbor the most pesticides as they are sprayed directly. These include bell peppers, spinach, nectarines, grapes, peach, pear, celery, lettuce, potatoes, cherries, strawberries and apples.
- Avoid canned and processed food. Cans contain an array of bisphenols that act similarly to estrogen and oppose the hormone adiponectin, thus increasing the size of fat cells and contributing to doubling the risk of diabetes. Cans containing “BPA-free” labels are not safe either as they still contain a large number of bisphenols.
- Avoid thermal paper receipts. These have been linked to an increase in breast and prostate cancers, cardiovascular disease, and reproductive and brain development abnormalities. It is recommended not to accept receipts and go paperless instead, but if you must handle them, hold it from the non-glossy backside. After handling the receipt, wash your hands with soap and water within 4 minutes. If your job requires your ongoing handling of receipts, wear latex gloves. Lastly, do not use a hand sanitizer after touching a possible thermal receipt. Research has shown the BPA level went up by 185% after using skin products such as sunscreens, moisturizer and sanitizers.
- Beware of plastics that contain phthalates and parabens, which have various effects. Be vigilant of the following labels:
|Releases EDCs over time.||Never tested for safety.||Most toxic. Linked to reproductive problems, diabetes, and cancers.||Degrade slowly, chemically non-reactive. Mostly a burden to the environment.||Never tested for safety.||Release extremely toxic flame retardants over time||BPA mimics estrogen. Infertility and developmental damage.|
|Water or soda bottles, polyester fibers||Milk and detergent bottles and caps, food storage containers||Water pipes, insulation, clothing, toys, furniture, shower curtains||Snap on lids, disc drives, plastic wraps, laminates||Textiles, packaging, carpets, lab and medical equipment, diapers||Packaging, foam, drink cups, DVD cases.||All the rest of plastics not included in the previous categories.|
Do not microwave plastics even if they are labelled as microwave safe. Throw away scratched plastics as their protective layer would be lost.
- Create a healthy home as flame-retardants and other organic pollutants found in electronic devices and furniture accumulate in your household as dust can interfere with the normal functioning of the thyroid gland. Therefore, it is advised to open the windows regularly to filter the air in the house, vacuuming at least once per week and mopping the house with a wet mop.
- Avoid non-sticking cooking pans as they contain PFAS. These interfere with metabolism and have shown to induce rebound weight gain after a successful diet. An alternative would be to use cast iron or stainless steel cookware.
Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals are all around us, having drastic effects on our health and contributing significantly to the development of several non-communicable diseases. These six simple steps make it easier to take control of our health and limit our everyday exposure to such chemicals.