CITIZENS FOR A BETTER ENVIRONMENT
Reducing Your Exposure:
Avoiding Hormone Disruptors
What Are Hormone Disruptors?
Scientists believe that many synthetic chemicals
act as endocrine disruptors, or hormone disruptors, interfering with our
bodies' natural hormone systems and causing a wide array of health problems.
Hormone disruptors often act by imitating our natural hormones. Our bodies
are "fooled" by these toxins, which can bind to the same sites to which
natural hormones bind, thereby altering, magnifying or blocking the function
of the natural hormones.
One hormone often imitated by toxins is estrogen.
Toxins that imitate estrogen are called xenoestrogens and may be linked
to high rates of breast cancer, endometriosis and other reproductive problems
in women and decreased sperm counts, prostate and testicular cancer in
men. Research shows that other health problems which are on the rise, such
as thyroid disorders, diabetes and behavioral abnormalities in children,
may also be linked to chemicals interefering with our hormones.
How can we reduce our exposure to hormone
disrupting chemicals? One of the best ways is to educate ourselves on which
products contain these chemicals and find safe alternatives. We can also
act in our communities to reduce the levels of harmful chemicals in our
homes, schools, parks and workplaces.
TO REDUCE EXPOSURE
Many pesticides contain chemicals known to have
hormone disrupting effects and are used in lawns, gardens, food crops and
on pets to control unwanted pests. To reduce your exposure:
• buy food grown locally and in season,
organic if possible
• peel non-organic fruits and vegetables
• avoid pesticide use; use non-toxic alternatives
• avoid areas freshly sprayed with pesticides
• join the Wisconsin Pesticide Registry to find
out when commercial lawncare services
spray in your neighborhood
Many organochlorines, or compounds which contain
chlorine and carbon, do not easily breakdown in the environment and accumulate
to high concentrations in the fat of humans and animals. Many organochlorines
are hormone disruptors. Organochlorines often are produced as byproducts
of industrial processes involving chlorine, organic matter and heat – such
as bleached paper-making, burning of hazardous, municipal & medical
waste, and chemical production. They are also found in pesticides, pharmaceuticals,
polyvinyl chloride (PVC) plastic and more. To reduce your exposure:
eat lower on the food chain
follow local fish consumption guidelines
avoid using PVC and other plastic products
choose chlorine-free products and unbleached paper
Plastics may contain two chemicals considered
to be hormone disruptors—bisphenol A and phthalates. Phthalates are used
to soften plastics and bisphenol A is a key ingredient in certain types
of hard plastics. Bisphenol A is also found in some dental sealants. To
reduce your exposure:
• heat food in ceramic or glass in the microwave;
never in plastic
• avoid plastic cling wrap or eliminate its direct
contact with food
• give children natural materials (wood, cloth,
etc.) to play with and chew on instead of plastic
• avoid dental materials with bisphenol A
• reduce your use of plastics in general; use
glass containers, wax paper, etc.
Lead is used in glazes, lead crystal, brass plumbing
fixtures, solder, food cans, lead batteries and as a stabilizer for PVC
plastics. Dust from lead-based paint settles on window sills and other
surfaces. Soil may be contaminated by leaded gasoline. To reduce your exposure
• wash your hands (and your children’s hands)
often, and always before eating
Mercury is used in the production of chlorine, button-type
batteries, fluorescent lights, pesticides, thermometers, polyurethane and
more. Most dental fillings are mercury amalgam. More than half of all cadmium
is used in rechargeable batteries. It is also used as a stabilizer in plastics.
Mercury and cadmium, released by fossil fuels during combustion, end up
in the air, water and soil. To reduce your exposure to mercury and cadmium:
• remove dust with a moist rag regularly, especially
• wash children’s toys regularly
• heat cold water instead of using hot tap water
• run cold (not hot) water taps for a few minutes
after long periods of disuse to flush out lead-contaminated water
• remove vinyl (PVC) blinds
• get your soil tested for lead, especially where
kids play and vegetables are grown
• consult renovation experts or your local health
department on proper removal of lead paint
• follow local fish consumption guidelines
• ask your dentist for porcelain, gold, or composite
instead of mercury amalgam
• minimize car and energy use; walk, bicycle,
bus or car pool instead
• properly dispose of all dead batteries as hazardous
wasteLead, mercury and cadmium
have hormone disrupting effects.
Nonylphenol ethoxylates (NPEs) are a class of
chemicals which are hormone disruptors. They are commonly used as detergents
in many industrial processes (including the production of oil, pulp &
paper, synthetic and natural textiles and leather) and common household
products. They are used as additives in latex paints and cosmetics, as
anti-oxidants and stabilizers in some plastics and in some pesticides.
Nonoxynol-9, a form of NPEs, is the active ingredient in contraceptive
spermicides. To reduce exposure:
• avoid specialty "super-strength" cleaners
• avoid pesticides
• minimize car and energy use to reduce oil production
75,000 synthetic chemicals are in use
1000 new chemicals are created each
According to a study by the National Academy
of Sciences, there is adequate information on toxicity for only 2% of the
synthetic chemicals released into our environment.
What You Can Do
• Share this information with family and friends.
How You Can Help
• Insist on your right to know before chemicals
are used in your neighborhood, schools and work.
• Ask your local grocery to carry non-toxic products
and non-bleached products.
• Sign up on Wisconsin's pesticide registry to
avoid pesticides in your neighborhood.
• Demand action from politicians, industry and
environmental regulators to phase out known endocrine disrupting chemicals.
• Press for disclosure of information on endocrine
disruptors in consumer products, packaging, industrial emissions, pesticides
• Support groups that are working for the phase-out
of harmful chemicals in the environment.
• Keep yourself healthy! Excercise regularly
and eat well. Eat a diet high in fruits and vegetables—reduce consumption
of animal protein to no more than 3 servings a week of 3 oz. each. Reduce
stress in your life as much as possible.
• Join one of the WHEN volunteer task forces:
Women's Health and the Environment Network
c/o Citizens for a Better Environment
152 W. Wisconsin Avenue, Suite 510
Milwaukee, WI 53203
414/271-7280 ~ 414/270-2904 fax ~ firstname.lastname@example.org
-education & outreach
-research & statistics
• Help at a WHEN outreach event
• Call us to arrange a slide show presentation
at your women's group, religious organization, garden club, school or other
• Order our video to show at your group's next
gathering or to share with your friends & family
• Financial support is always welcome!