Confused About Endocrine Disruptors? You’re Not Alone…


Chances are you’ve heard about endocrine disruptors either in the news, on social media or in your social circles. Personally, I know I am constantly inundated with conflicting information about common chemicals impacting or “disrupting” our endocrine system.  Not only is it confusing, but also causes a lot of anxiety, especially as we make decisions about what our little ones are exposed to.  It’s hard to know where to start and what to trust.

One great resource I discovered and covered in an earlier post is Chemical Safety You can search for any chemical and you’ll find easy to understand facts – all backed by science! One post I found to be particularly interesting was all about chemical exposures and our endocrine system.

Here’s what I learned:  

What is the Endocrine System?

The human body is truly amazing and our endocrine system is one component of it that provides daily protection. It does this by producing hormones that help manage many normal daily functions, as well as ongoing growth and developmental changes throughout our lives.

In a nutshell, the endocrine system regulates our bodies by producing hormones that help regulate sleep, mood, and metabolism, to name a few. 

Another way to think about it is much like the way a thermostat in your home helps to regulate the temperature, the endocrine system is constantly monitoring and adjusting to changes in the environment to help our bodies maintain our overall health.

Do Chemicals Impact the Endocrine System?

While it is true chemicals can have an effect on our bodies – the vast majority of endocrine active substances do not cause any adverse health effects.

There are some chemicals that you may have heard are an “endocrine-disrupting chemical” or a “hormone-disrupting chemical”. These terms tend to be misused and actually considered to be a misnomer by scientists. The truth is, there are various substances that we are exposed to at very low levels throughout our lifetime that won’t harm our health, despite the misconceptions.

So…. What is an Endocrine Disruptor?

In order to understand this, it is important to note the difference between endocrine active and endocrine disruptive chemicals.

Endocrine active chemicals are substances that alter the function of your endocrine system in some way – like sunlight or caffeine – but do not necessarily cause adverse health effects. Chemicals that are endocrine disruptors must ultimately harm your endocrine system by creating a negative health outcome to you and your body. As it turns out, many chemicals are being mislabeled as “endocrine disruptors” that are really only endocrine active, meaning, they have NOT been shown to cause adverse health effects.

The distinction is important because otherwise, common foods – even sunlight – would also have to be called an “endocrine disruptor” since it can cause temporary changes to our endocrine system. Picture this: when you eat edamame, it causes a spike in your estrogen levels at that moment. After a period of time, those levels return to normal, making soy an endocrine active chemical rather than a disruptor.

Bottom line? If something is endocrine active, that does not guarantee it is also an endocrine disruptor. To ease concerns, even more, the U.S. government specifically screens chemicals for endocrine activity and, if found, highly regulates the use of those chemicals.

For Example…BPA as an Endocrine Disruptor? 

BPA (a.k.a. Bisphenol A) is a chemical essential to a wide variety of consumer and industrial products you depend on every day, from the cell phone in your hand to your little one’s sports safety gear. However, BPA is often mischaracterized as being an endocrine disruptor, causing fear and anxiety for parents.  The good news is BPA is one of the most thoroughly tested and studied chemicals in use today, and governments around the globe have repeatedly concluded that it is safe for humans at typical exposure levels.  

What does all of this mean for us?

Low-level BPA exposure is considered safe for our children and families. After decades of controversy, the FDA set the record straight with results from a multi-year study that the use of BPA has a very low possibility of causing any type of health effects, even if there is lifelong exposure to that chemical or product. Bottom line, after years and years of research, and millions of taxpayer dollars, BPA has turned out not to be the scary “endocrine disruptor” some environmental activists once alleged.

To stay within acceptable ranges of exposure, be sure to read the product label closely and follow directions carefully. And the more you understand the science behind these ingredients and the regulations that are put in place – the more you’ll be able to replace fear with facts.

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