But the truth is, many of these industrial chemicals (which were never adequately tested for long-term health effects before being introduced to the general public) have found their way into products we come into contact with each and every day - pesticides in food, on our lawns, and inside our homes. These chemicals also lurk in food preservatives, in household dust, and in household products ranging from hairspray and shampoo to air fresheners and candles. Depending on when we're exposed, researchers now believe that certain hormone disruptors can set us up not only for developmental problems early in life, but also for hormone-related problems like obesity, infertility, certain cancers, and diabetes that may not surface until decades after exposure. Hormone-disrupting chemicals throw off our bodies' intricate systems for developing and regulating our bodily systems; these chemicals mess with our ability to function in a way our bodies did pre-Industrial Revolution.
Comment: Read more about why Endocrine Disruptors Really Do Suck
THE DETAILS: For years, The Endocrine Disruption Exchange staff has been poring over thousands of published scientific studies to build this list of more than 1,300 potentially hormone-disrupting chemicals. For a chemical to make the cut, at least one scientific study had to show that the chemical had hormone disruption effects. However, Carol Kwiatkowski, PhD, executive director and senior research associate at The Endocrine Disruption Exchange, says researchers found multiple studies indicating hormone disruption as an effect of many of the chemicals listed. And this list is just the tip of the ice-burg. "We had to stop somewhere so we could share this list, but we're already working on adding more chemicals," Kwiatkowski says.
WHAT IT MEANS: While the list shows all different types of chemicals, including the notorious BPA, a particular class of chemicals kept popping up: Pesticides. Weed-, bug-, and fungi-killing chemicals used in homes, gardens, and farm fields appeared time and time again on the list. "There are 269 pesticides on the list, and there are going to be lots more," Kwiatkowski notes. Glyphosate, the chemical name for the common agricultural and residential weedkiller Roundup, is on the list, as is 2, 4-D, a compound Monsanto, the maker of toxic chemicals and genetically engineered seeds, hopes to use in its next round of GMO seeds.
Benzene, an air pollutant that is often linked to cancer and breathing problems, is also recognized as a hormone disruptor. That's bad news for the natural gas drilling industry, which is being slammed by studies showing major public health threats. Earlier in the year, The Endocrine Disruption Exchange published a study finding that 43 percent of the chemicals used in natural gas drilling are endocrine disruptors.
The development of this list also brought to light the fact that hormone-disrupting chemicals, which can affect the endocrine glands - pituitary, thyroid, adrenal, thymus, pancreas, ovaries, and testes - can lead to problems with immune systems, bone health, and brain and heart development, too. "We were surprised at the range of effects related to the endocrine system," Kwiatkowski says.
Here are 5 ways to phase out hormone-disrupting chemicals from everyday life.
- Demand organic. This list adds to the mounting research finding that pesticides don't just damage weeds and other pests, but us, too. It's farmer's market season, which means you can find great deals on in-season, local, organic food. Just make sure it's really organic: How to Find True Organic Food at the Farmer's Market.
- Demand a moratorium on natural gas drilling. Unconventional natural gas drilling, which uses the toxic fracking process to release subterranean gas, uses hundreds of toxic chemicals that wastewater-treatment plants cannot adequately deal with before the water is then released back into waterways, including those that serve as drinking water supplies. And wastewater from the drilling could be shipped far from the original site, ending up in municipal systems after being inadequately filtered. Like Pittsburgh, you can lobby your local government to adopt an ordinance that bans natural gas drilling in your area.
- Banish toxic household hormone disruptors. Ditch benzene- and synthetic fragrance-emitting candles and air fresheners. If you still want ambiance, choose beeswax candles, which actually help clean up indoor air. In general, avoid any personal-care products listing parfum or fragrance as an ingredient. Check the Environmental Working Group's Skin Deep Cosmetic Safety Database to rate the safety of products you use, and to find safer ones if you need to.
- Don't use pesticides in or around your home. Just as you shouldn't eat pesticides with your food, you shouldn't inhale them, taint your drinking water with them, or absorb them through your skin. Use natural pest-control methods and nontoxic lawn and garden tactics from Organic Gardening magazine.