The Worst Chemicals in Your Home May 25, 2017 12:27

Endocrine disruptors have been called a "global health threat," and of the 1,300 out there, these are the worst.

Endocrine disruption

When the United Nations comes out with a report calling something a "global health threat," we should probably be more than a little concerned. And that's exactly what happened in early 2013 when the World Health Organization and the UN Environment Programm applied the term to a class of chemicals known as endocrine disruptors. The reason: A growing body of research is linking these potent chemicals, which interfere with the endocrine system that regulates your hormones, to global rates of chronic disease and infertility.

"Never has there been a time in history that the disease burden of the human population is predominantly chronic disease, not communicable or infectious disease," Thomas Zoeller, PhD, professor of biology at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and a coauthor of the report, told us at the time. "We can't prove that this is related to endocrine-disrupting chemicals, but we can't continue to deny their impact."

Now the nonprofit Environmental Working Group (EWG) and the Keep a Breast Foundation are sounding alarm bells about the health threat of these chemicals. Of the roughly 80,000 chemicals used in everyday goods, 1,300 or so are considered endocrine disruptors, also called Endocrine disruptors.

Endocrine disruption

The nonprofits just released a report outlining the "Dirty Dozen," a list of endocrine disruptors that highlights the worst of the worst—and the ones you're most likely exposed to every day. Here's how to avoid them:

Bisphenol A, or BPA

What it does: Perhaps the most widely studied endocrine disruptor on the market, BPA actually started out in the 1930s as a synthetic estrogen given to women. So it's no surprise that this hormonal chemical has been found to act like estrogen, with current exposure levels leading to things like decreased sperm production in men, early puberty in girls, and fertility problems in both genders, or that animal studies have linked it to greater chances of miscarriage. BPA also interferes with metabolic hormones BPA also interferes with and plays a role in heart disease, obesity, and diabetes.

Where it's found: BPA is found in the linings of food cans, and it's used as a coating on receipts. The chemical is still used in some plastic products and as a flame retardant, as well, but thanks to the lack of laws requiring companies to disclose how BPA is being used, it's impossible to know all the places where the nearly 3 billion pounds of the chemical produced each year wind up.

Easiest way to avoid it: Opt for fresh, frozen, or homemade versions of your favorite canned foods. You can also limit additional exposures by rejecting unnecessary receipts when shopping.


What they do: Dioxins and dioxinlike compounds like PCBs and the pesticide DDT are known to cause cancer, but they're also considered one of the most toxic classes of chemicals know to man.  Among their hormone-related effects: decreased fertility, diabetes, endometriosis, immune system problems, lowered testosterone levels, miscarriages, and reduced sperm counts and quality.

Where they're found: Municipal waste incineration produces large quantities, but chemical bleaching of paper and wood pulp accounts for huge quantities in the air and water. Dioxins build up in the fatty tissues of animals and are very widespread in the food supply.

Easiest way to avoid them: Reduce your consumption of fatty meat and dairy products.