What is an Endocrine Disrupting Chemical (EDC) and should we be concerned?
When I was first writing my book, Organicise, I was focused on methodology - what positive steps can we take to have a healthy home.
In this last few months, as a result of more indepth researching of ingredients, I am increasingly understanding the 'WHY'. Why are specific ingredients like parabens and phthalates to be avoided, what is endocrine disruption and is it a big deal?
Knowledge is power and even more so, UNDERSTANDING. Understanding changes our culture, brings a conviction, makes those choices a no brainer.
I'm keen to appreciate and understand this remarkable creation that is our body:
THE ENDOCRINE SYSTEM
The US Environmental Protection Agency describes it this way -
"Endocrine systems, also referred to as hormone systems, are found in all mammals, birds, fish, and many other types of living organisms."
"The endocrine system, made up of all the body's different hormones, regulates all biological processes in the body from conception through adulthood and into old age, including the development of the brain and nervous system, the growth and function of the reproductive system, as well as the metabolism and blood sugar levels. The female ovaries, male testes, and pituitary, thyroid, and adrenal glands are major constituents of the endocrine system."
The Endocrine System consists of:
+ The actual glands (see diagram)
+ Hormones that are made by the glands
+ Receptors in various organs and tissues that recognize and respond to the hormones.
Maybe oversimplified but my take on hormones is that they are messengers, released throughout our bodies into our bloodstream from the glands where they are produced. They head off to bind with their specific receptors for the designed function and outcome in the body.
EPA says it this way:
"Hormones control or regulate many biological processes and are often produced in exceptionally low amounts within the body. Examples of such processes include:
· blood sugar control (insulin);
· differentiation, growth, and function of reproductive organs (testosterone (T) and estradiol); and
· body growth and energy production (growth hormone and thyroid hormone).
Much like a lock and key, many hormones act by binding to receptors that are produced within cells. When a hormone binds to a receptor, the receptor carries out the hormone's instructions, either by altering the cell's existing proteins or turning on genes that will build a new protein. The hormone-receptor complex switches on or switches off specific biological processes in cells, tissues, and organs."
When these receptors connect with a synthetic hormone ...?
WHO (World Health Organisation) is sufficiently concerned about the future of human development and the impact of EDCs that they published the
'State of the Science of Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals 2012 - A Summary For Decision Makers'
and on page 7 stated...
EXPOSURE to EDCs COULD IMPAIR THE HEALTH of our CHILDREN and THEIR CHILDREN.
PARABENS & PHTHALATES
PARABENS are a group of synthetic compounds commonly used as preservatives in a wide range of health and personal care products. They are anti-fungal and anti-microbial. Yes, it's definitely important to prevent bad bacteria and fungi from multiplying and contaminating our systems but let's do it wisely.
Identified concerns are:
- potential endocrine disruptors due to their ability to mimic estrogen.
- can lead to UV-induced damage of skin cells and disruption of cell growth
- developmental and reproductive toxicity
read more -
The European Commission (EC) has banned 5 parabens in all cosmetics products and personal care due to the concern for human use.
The five parabens to be removed are: isopropylparaben; isobutylparaben; phenylparaben; benzylparaben; pentylparaben
They have also lowered the allowed maximum concentrations of butyl-and propylparaben as well as to prohibit these in leave-on products designed for application in the nappy area and in products intended for children under 3 years of age.
PHTHALATES (pronounced "thah-lates") are chemical plasticizers that have been widely used to soften plastics. Phthalates are everywhere, in personal care items, they're used to help lubricate other substances, help lotions penetrate and soften the skin. They're also used in toys, electronics (such as personal computers), car-care products, insecticides, and many household products, including adhesives, plastic wrap, plastic containers, flooring, furniture, wallpaper, shower curtains, and other things made of vinyl or PVC.
Phthalates are used in fragrances as they make the scent last longer. Companies are not legally bound to disclose components of fragrance you won't know if there are phthalates in the product. It's recommended to avoid 'fragrance' as an ingredient.
Phthalates are recognised endocrine disruptors linked to problems of the reproductive system, including decreased sperm concentration in men and genital abnormalities in baby boys (male hypospadias).
"Close to 800 chemicals are known or suspected to be capable of interfering with hormone receptors, hormone synthesis or hormone conversion. However, only a small fraction of these chemicals have been investigated in tests capable of identifying overt endocrine effects in intact organisms." WHO/UNEP State of the Science of Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals – 2012
Endocrine disruptors are chemicals that interfere with normal hormone action. A healthy endocrine system is essential to humans (and wildlife) being able to reproduce and develop normally. According to the WHO 2012 Report, many endocrine-related diseases are on the rise:
- male semen quality
- genital malformations such as non-descending testes (cryptorchidisms) and penile malformations (hypospadias), in baby boys
- adverse pregnancy outcomes
- Neurobehavioural disorders in children
- endocrine-related cancers
This extensive report identifies chemicals that are linked to these diseases, and it is concerning to read "Recent evidence also shows links with the painkiller paracetamol."
A FINAL WORD
When you look at the functions of the Endocrine System, so vital to our future generations as healthy human beings, it is common sense to stay away from any ingredients that is even suspicious as an endocrine disruptor. We can't avoid a degree of exposure to the widespread use of these chemicals BUT we can stay informed and where we have choice BE WISE.
Give it your best,