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Be careful with endocrine hormone disruptors

There is no conclusive evidence that endocrine disruptors in low doses make you sick or infertile.

Much scientific research is still needed for this. Because there are strong suspicions that endocrine disrupting substances can cause health problems, you have to be careful. Especially for pregnant women, children and adolescents.

What Are Hormones?

Hormones are chemicals that are naturally present in the body. They are produced by glands such as the thyroid gland, glands in the brain, the reproductive organs, the kidneys or the pancreas.

Hormones are released in the body and are carried by the bloodstream. They bind at the level of the tissues. Through this binding, they provide important signals to the tissues. For example, hormones play an important role in every phase of life: in growth and development, fertility, the immune system, metabolism and mood.

What are endocrine disruptors?

Endocrine disruptors are chemicals that come from the outside and can disrupt the normal functioning of hormones. This can be done in various ways:

  • by mimicking hormones that cause the body to receive the wrong messages or block the action of the hormones;
  • by preventing the transport of hormones through the bloodstream and thereby disrupting the concentration of the hormones in the blood;
  • by disrupting the production and breakdown processes of hormones.

Hormone-disrupting substances can be found in cleaning products, personal care products, textiles, plastics and pesticides. We are exposed to it in many ways every day . They enter the body through inhalation, skin contact or food.

Health effects

Exposure to endocrine disrupting substances usually does not immediately lead to health disadvantages. Still, we have to be careful. There is strong suspicion that endocrine disruptors contribute to a number of health problems.

They are associated with, among other things:

  • fertility problems;
  • overweight;
  • diabetes;
  • premature breast development in girls;
  • disorders in brain development.

Children, adolescents and fetuses (and therefore pregnant women) are particularly sensitive to the effects of endocrine disruptors. Their tissues are still developing and exposure to hormone-disrupting substances could have a lifelong effect .

In adults, the negative effects would usually disappear when exposure to the endocrine disrupting substance decreases or stops.

Lots of uncertainties

About eight hundred endocrine disrupting substances are already known. However, a great deal of knowledge is still lacking about their precise effects and when they occur. In addition, it is very likely that we do not know about many other endocrine disrupting substances. All this makes it very difficult for governments to take appropriate measures.

For endocrine disruptors, it is unfortunately not possible to determine the concentration in which they are safe and from what amount they are harmful. Even low doses could have harmful health effects. This depends, among other things, on the sensitivity of the individual, the phase of life, the concentration and the duration of exposure. They also often occur in combination with other substances, which can enhance or weaken their harmful effects.

Conclusion: try to avoid endocrine disruptors as much as possible and to live a healthy life. With a few simple habits you can already greatly reduce exposure to endocrine disrupting substances.

What can I do myself?

    • Ventilate and ventilate your home well.
    • Ventilation is permanent. Airing is done on days when you have cleaned or started working with other products.
    • When purchasing new furniture or electronics, it is best to ventilate your home for a few extra weeks.
    • Use cleaning agents without perfume, dyes or solvents. Look for eco labels.
    • Do not use air fresheners.
    • Ventilate after brushing by opening your windows wide .
    • Replace cleaning products with vinegar, soda, lemon juice or baking soda (sodium bicarbonate).
    • Avoid plastic jars as much as possible. It is very difficult to distinguish between harmful and less harmful types of plastic. In addition to bisphenol A (BPA), plastic can contain many other harmful substances. Prefer glass jars, glass jars or storage containers made of stainless steel.
    • Do not put plastic in the microwave. Rather use glass or porcelain.
    • Wash plastic jars a few times before using them.
    • Drink as little as possible from plastic bottles.
    • Ventilate and air out sufficiently during cooking and washing up.
    • Avoid plastic or Teflon pots and pans. Use stainless steel or cast iron material. If you do cook with Teflon pans, keep an eye on the ideal baking temperature and throw away a pan as soon as the non-stick coating is damaged.
    • Rinse fruits and vegetables thoroughly before eating them. Buy organic food instead: it is produced without pesticides.
    • Avoid plastic packaging if you choose pre-packaged food.
    • Be critical about care products and cosmetics you use. Many soaps, shampoos, deodorants, creams, lip balms and mascara contain endocrine disruptors. Prefer to use products based on natural substances.
    • Always check the ingredients list for baby products and avoid 'parabens', 'phthalates' or abbreviations such as BzBP, DEP and DMP. After all, baby's skin is extra sensitive to hormone-disrupting products. Wet wipes also contain many chemicals and should not be used. Washcloths or reusable wipes are a great alternative.
    • Ask your pharmacist about neutral sun creams, because many sun creams contain endocrine disruptors.
    • Choose woolen, linen or cotton clothes. They contain fewer endocrine disrupting substances than synthetic clothing.
    • Always wash new clothes or sheets before using them.
    • Avoid children's clothing with nice-looking plastic motifs.
    • Don't buy clothes with labels such as 'fragrance-free', 'antibacterial' and 'do not iron'. They point to a lot of chemicals.
    • Also be careful with PVC-coated children's clothing. Children have a relatively larger skin surface, their skin is even more sensitive and they often put clothes in their mouths.
    • Choose wooden toys, make sure that the wood has been treated with ecological products.
    • Wash a soft toy before your child plays with it. Preferably choose cuddly toys made from natural fibres. Plastic toys contain a lot of hormone-disrupting substances. The CE quality mark means that the product complies with European safety regulations and offers some guidance.

    Source: Doctor Elise Rummens, prevention doctor CM, in collaboration with the intermutualist working group 'Environment and health'.