Xenoestrogens and How to Minimize Your Exposure
Our modern world is full of wonderful conveniences that many of us can't imagine
being without. Automobiles, cell phones, computers, and television, as just a
few examples, benefit our lives in many positive ways. We love the convenience
of microwaving a meal, grabbing a bottle of water on the way to the gym, and
choosing from endless products on supermarket shelves. But, as time goes on, we
are beginning to recognize the drawbacks that accompany our modern conveniences,
especially those in the form of harmful chemicals. Endocrine disrupting
chemicals known as xenoestrogens offer a prime example.
Estrogen, like every hormone naturally produced by the body, is a vital chemical
messenger that transports a signal from one cell to another. However,
xenoestrogens, a group of chemicals present in
the environment and the products we use every day, mimic the effects of estrogen
and compromise normal hormone function. Combined with the estrogen naturally
produced by the body, these foreign chemicals create an excess of estrogen.
Since we know that breast cancer develops in the presence of estrogen maintained
over a prolonged period of time, this puts both women and men at risk for
developing the disease.
Research shows that xenoestrogens are not only linked to high rates of breast
cancer, but also contribute to endometriosis, precocious puberty (unusually
early onset of puberty), infertility, and miscarriages. In men, xenoestrogens
are believed to contribute to decreased sperm counts, and prostate and
testicular cancers. Other health problems such as thyroid disorders, diabetes,
and behavioral abnormalities in children, may also be linked to xenoestrogens
interfering with the estrogens naturally produced by the body.
In relation to breast cancer, organochlorines are among the most concerning of
the xenoestrogens. Organochlorines, or compounds which contain chlorine and
carbon, do not easily breakdown in the environment and accumulate in high
concentrations in the fat of humans. Organochlorines are produced as by-products
of industrial processes involving chlorine, organic matter and heat, such as
bleached paper, burning of hazardous, municipal and medical waste, and chemical
production. They are also found in pesticides, pharmaceuticals, polyvinyl
chloride (PVC) plastic and much more.
Nonylphenol ethoxylates (NPEs) are yet another class of endocrine disrupting
chemicals. They are commonly used as detergents in many industrial processes
(including the production of oil, pulp
and paper, synthetic and natural textiles and leather) and common household
products. NPE'S 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
Clearly, we are constantly exposed to endocrine disrupting xenoestrogens making
them impossible to avoid altogether. However, with education and awareness, each
and every step taken to identify and minimize our exposure to these and other
toxic chemicals will contribute to our future health and that of the planet.
Simple steps can make a huge difference, like choosing a food-grade stainless
steel water bottle over plastic and/or switching to chemical free personal care
products. Each positive choice we make, no matter how small, matters. Now is the
time to begin.
What can you do right now to make a positive impact on your health and reduce
your risk for developing breast cancer and other diseases? Begin by examining
the products you use on a daily basis. Check the ingredients in your personal
care products like shampoo, conditioner, facial care products, deodorant, etc.
where many xenoestrogens are commonly found. Reduce your exposure to chlorine by
using a chlorine filter shower head and choosing unbleached products. Limit your
use of plastics, especially drinking from plastic water bottles and microwaving
in plastic containers. Learn to identify and minimize as many xenoestrogens as
Identifying chemicals shown to have estrogenic effects:
4-Methylbenzylidene camphor (4-MBC) (sunscreen lotions)
Butylated hydroxyanisole / BHA (food preservative)
Bisphenol A (monomer for polycarbonate plastic and epoxy resin; antioxidant in
Chlorine and chlorine by-products
Dichlorodiphenyldichloroethylene (one of the breakdown products of DDT)
Erythrosine / FD&C Red No. 3
Ethinylestradiol (combined oral contraceptive pill)
Lindane / hexachlorocyclohexane (insecticide)
Metalloestrogens (a class of inorganic xenoestrogens)
Nonylphenol and derivatives (industrial surfactants; emulsifiers for emulsion
polymerization; laboratory detergents; pesticides)
Pentachlorophenol (general biocide and wood preservative)
Polychlorinated biphenyls / PCBs (in electrical oils, lubricants, adhesives,
Parabens (methylparaben, ethylparaben, propylparaben and butylparaben commonly
used as preservatives in personal care products.
Phenosulfothiazine (a red dye)
DEHP (plasticizer for PVC)
Guidelines to minimize your personal exposure to xenoestrogens:
Choose chlorine-free products and unbleached paper products.
Avoid all pesticides, herbicides, and fungicides.
Use filtered water to drink and bathe in to avoid chlorine.
Whenever possible, choose organic foods.
Buy hormone free meats and dairy products to avoid hormones and pesticides.
Use chlorine free tampons, menstrual pads, toilet paper, paper towel, coffee
Reduce the use of plastics whenever possible.
Do not microwave food in plastic containers.
Avoid the use of plastic wrap to cover food for storing or microwaving.
Use glass or ceramics whenever possible to store food.
Do not leave plastic containers, especially your drinking water, in the sun.
If a plastic water container has heated up significantly, throw it away
without drinking the water.
Don't refill plastic water bottles.
Avoid freezing water in plastic bottles to drink later.
Buy food grown locally and in season, organic if possible.
Peel non-organic fruits and vegetables.
Use chemical free, biodegradable laundry and household cleaning products
Use chemical free soaps and toothpastes.
Avoid creams and cosmetics that have toxic chemicals and estrogenic
ingredients such as parabens and stearal konium chloride.
Minimize your exposure to nail polish and nail polish removers.
Use naturally based fragrances, such as essential oils.
Read the labels on condoms and diaphragm gels.
Minimize X-rays whenever possible.
Be aware of noxious gas such as from copiers and printers, carpets,
fiberboards, and at the gas pump.