Endocrine Disruptors: What Are They? How Do I Avoid Them?

So, you’re drinking all your water, awesome! But now it’s time to step it up a notch and ditch the plastic bottles…and the endocrine disruptors that come along with them.

What Are Endocrine Disruptors?

Endocrine disruptors can be natural or man-made substances that interfere with our body’s endocrine system (hormone and cell signaling) and can lead to harmful developmental, neurological, immune and reproductive effects.

Maybe you’ve heard about BPA? It’s known to disrupt hormones and can mimic the effect of estrogen in the body, leading to hormone imbalances. BPA has been linked to insulin resistance, obesity, diabetes, asthma, cardiovascular disease, liver damage, ADHD, infertility (for men and women) and altered gene expression

But, guess what? BPA-free doesn’t mean you’re safe from the health hazards of plastic.

A study published in Environmental Health indicates that almost all plastics, including BPA- and phthalate-free products, release chemicals with estrogenic activity. Bisphenol S (BPS) and triphenyl phosphate (TPP) are two chemicals often found in BPA-free products. Items containing these chemicals have been marketed as “safe” alternatives to BPA-containing plastics, but it turns out that BPS has endocrine-disrupting effects that are very similar to BPA, and TPP is even more estrogenic than BPA.

What Endocrine Disruptors Do?

Our endocrine system consists of glands that release hormones. Once released, those hormones act like chemical messenger that travel throughout our body, bind to target receptors on certain cells and cause predictable cellular change.

Endocrine disruptors mimic our naturally occurring hormones and end up binding to receptors which in turn changes our hormone creation, transport, binding and breakdown. They’re very stable which means they don’t break down easily (why manufacturers use them in products) and also means they stick around in our bodies for a long time.

When our hormonal systems are altered, it can lead to disrupted metabolism, immune function, bone health & mental status, altered testicular function & conversion of cholesterol to steroid hormones, oxidative stress, promotion of obesity and more.

Where are endocrine disruptors found?

We’re exposed to a cocktail of endocrine disruptors every day and probably don’t even know it.

They’re found in our plastic bottles, probably in your carpet and most likely in your drug store beauty care products. They’re even food packaging, shower curtains, cleaning products, children’s toys, canned food and of course water bottles (even BPA-free). That’s right, we’re constantly being bombarded with hormonal manipulators. They’re everywhere.

In fact, the CDC has found over 92% of people tested, including newborns, have detectable levels of BPA and other plastic chemicals in their bodies.


The good news? We can control most of our exposure.

Tips to Avoid Endocrine Disruptors

Research finds that BPA, phthalates and other plastics have harmful effects at both high and very low doses. Given the above evidence, I recommend trying to avoid all kinds of plastic, even ones labeled as BPA-free.

  • Use glass and stainless steel whenever possible for drinking, cooking, eating and storing food.
  • Never reheat your food in plastic containers or wash them in the dishwasher. Use glass.
  • Don’t cook with plastic utensils. Instead opt for bamboo or wood.
  • Use parchment paper or a lid from a pot to cover your food instead of plastic wrap and aluminum foil.
  • Watch what you eat (avoid canned foods and choose organic when possible).
  • Cook with cast iron instead of nonstick pans which can also hide endocrine disruptors.
  • Use a stainless steel thermos to pack your kids lunches instead of plastic baggies.
  • Don’t forget to say “no, thank you” to your receipt, as these have BPA coating as well.
  • Take a look at your (and your kids) cosmetic and personal care products (sunscreens, lotions, make up, soap, etc). Avoid those that contain phthalates in the ingredients and find natural replacements.
  • Choose wood or fabric toys for children instead of plastic.
  • Swap out those plastic water bottles and shaker bottles for an insulated stainless steel or glass (just make sure you keep the lid clean from mold).

Choosing what we put into and on our bodies can have an enormous impact on our health.

What steps do you currently take to avoid plastic? Are there some things you have difficulty finding alternatives for?

Take action, today… and every day.

Consider going plastic-free on your next water bottle purchase. But, remember: No matter what nutritional or lifestyle changes you’re here to make, you have to get better at making a change in the first place if you want those changes to stick.

One realistic step at a time. 

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