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Molly Majewicz: ‘All About Endocrine Disruptors’

by Molly Majewicz

As consumers, it is important for us to be aware of the types of chemicals or ingredients that are in our common household products. Endocrine disruptors are synthetic chemicals that have harmful effects on the endocrine system—this system consists of the glands and hormones that regulate various important functions in the body, like growth, stress response, sexual development, and reproduction ability.

These chemicals are found in many of our everyday products, like cosmetics, baby and children’s toys, cleaning products, furniture, computers, you name it. According to TEDX, no chemical has been thoroughly tested for its endocrine disrupting effects, so we cannot say that specific chemicals do indeed cause long-term health defects or problems.

However, there exists a long list of chemicals that are suspected to cause health issues like cancer, lowered fertility, and developmental, reproductive, immune, and neurological defects. To see a full list, visit the TEDX website.

Specifically when you are shopping for cosmetics or other skin care products, keep a look out for these 12 worst endocrine disrupting chemicals:

  • BHA/BHT — used mainly in moisturizers and makeup
  • P-phenylenediamine — used in hair dyes or other products that are artificially colored; contaminated with heavy metals that are toxic to the brain
  • DEA/MEA/TEA — used mostly in creamy and foaming products, like moisturizers and shampoo, shaving cream, etc.
  • Dibutyl phthalate — used in nail care products
  • DMDM hydantoin/diazolidinyl urea/imidazolidinyl urea/methenamine — used in a variety of cosmetics; slowly releases formaldehyde, which causes cancer
  • Parabens — in a variety of cosmetics as preservatives; associated with male reproductive function issues
  • Parfum (fragrance) — can trigger allergies and asthma; some are linked to cancer and neurotoxicity
  • PEG compounds — used in cosmetic cream bases; look for any word with the letters “eth”
  • Petrolatum — used in hair products for shine, also lipsticks and lip balms
  • Siloxanes — used in cosmetics that soften, smooth, or moisten
  • Sodium laureth sulfate — used in shampoos, cleansers, and bubble bath products
  • Triclosan — used in antibacterial cosmetics, like toothpaste, cleansers, and antiperspirants

For more information, check out the David Suzuki Foundation website. It would be helpful to keep a pocket-size list of these chemicals in your wallet or purse so that when you are shopping, you can quickly compare your list of endocrine disruptors to the ingredients list on the back of the product.

A way to avoid endocrine disruptors all together is to replace as many products as you can with all-natural solutions. For examples of all natural skin care products, see my last blog post. You can check to see how potentially harmful your skin care products actually are on EWG’s Skin Deep database. The key to helping yourself stay healthy and limiting your exposure to these endocrine disruptors is by purely being aware and making conscious decisions to avoid them.

Here is a pocket-size list of the 12 worst endocrine disrupters:

BHA/BHT PEG compounds
P-phenylenediamine Petrolatum
DEA/MEA/TEA Siloxanes
DMDM hydantoin/methenamine Sodium laureth sulfate
Parabens Triclosan
Parfum (fragrance) Diazolidinyl urea/imidazolidinyl urea/
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