From those time-saving household cleaners to that tasty frozen meal at the grocery store—we all love our modern conveniences. But did you know that many of the products and services you use every day are filled with hormone-disrupting chemicals that can trigger a variety of health problems, including reproductive issues, autoimmunity, cancer, neurological conditions, heart disease, and obesity? Chronic exposure may even shorten your life.
Hormones are messengers that help regulate all of your body’s processes. Normally, your hormones bind to receptors like a lock and key. When the key fits, it unlocks the hormones’ ability to send its messages. Hormone disruptors, on the other hand, are chemicals that scramble these messages—and you’re exposed to them every day. Here are the most common:
- Bisphenol A (BPA) is used in some plastic products such as water bottles and baby bottles. It’s also used to line canned food and in the thermal paper used for receipts. Prolonged exposure may cause learning and behavioral problems, infertility, neurological and heart abnormalities, and changes to DNA. BPA may also increase the risk of diabetes and obesity.
- Flame retardants are used in consumer electronics and soft furniture like sofas and mattresses. They have been linked to an increased risk of birth defects, cancer, immune issues, neurological conditions, reproductive problems, and thyroid dysfunction.
- Pesticides and herbicides, such as atrazine and glyphosate, are widely used in conventional agriculture and lawn care. These chemicals can negatively impact fertility, increase the risk of cancer, and may damage the nervous system.
- Perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances(PFAS) are a group of chemicals used in stain- and water-resistant products, nonstick cookware, and some cosmetics. They have been shown to cause birth defects, harm the liver, lower fertility, suppress hormone production, and increase the risk of obesity and cancer. PFAS may also reduce vaccine efficacy.
- Phthalates make plastic flexible and are often used in plastic packaging, vinyl toys, and medical tubing. They’re also used as a stabilizer in synthetic fragrances. Studies show that phthalates disrupt reproductive hormones, and they have also been associated with respiratory, liver, and kidney damage.
Fortunately, there are numerous ways to avoid falling victim to these hormone-disrupting chemicals and their toxic health effects.
- Choose nontoxic cleaners. Buy household-cleaning products that voluntarily disclose their ingredients on the label, or make your own nontoxic cleaners with everyday ingredients like vinegar and baking soda.
- Ditch synthetic fragrances. Check label ingredients on cosmetics, candles, air fresheners, and other scented products for the word “fragrance.”
- Dust and vacuum often. Use a damp cloth to dust and a vacuum with a HEPA filter to trap small particles of flame retardants.
- Opt for organic. Choose organic foods whenever possible to lower the risk of ingesting pesticide and herbicide residues. Bonus: studies show that organic food is often higher in nutrients.
- Pass on plastic. Replace plastic food-storage containers with glass, exchange plastic bags for BPA-free reusable ones, and switch out plastic wrap for beeswax-coated cloth.
- Trade in your cookware. Swap your nonstick pots and pans for cast iron, stainless steel, ceramic, glass, or enamel-coated cast iron.
- Use a water filter. Tap water often contains an alphabet soup of hormone disrupters. Use a high-quality faucet filter or a water pitcher sporting the ability to filter out multiple chemicals.