Our government won’t protect us from these harmful chemicals, so we have to protect ourselves.
The endocrine system is the system of glands, hormones and hormone targets that is responsible for almost everything our bodies do. Hormones are chemical messengers that control blood sugar, infant and child development, sexual function, growth, energy production and much more. Tiny amounts of them have profound effects on our health and wellbeing.
Synthetic chemicals, used in industry and agriculture, can disrupt the way this finely tuned system works. We call these chemicals—including compounds made from lead, mercury and arsenic, DDT, BPA and phthalates are endocrine disrupting chemicals.
These chemicals are known to cause obesity, diabetes, heart disease, reduced fertility, premature birth, reduced sperm quality and cancer. Exposures before birth, during childhood and the teenage years are important because of the rapid growth and development during those periods. New research indicates that some EDCs cause problems that are passed along for generations.
A study released by Healthy Babies Bright Futures highlights the pervasiveness of the endocrine-disrupting chemical, arsenic. The study found that levels of arsenic in infant rice cereal are six times higher than in infant cereals made from other ingredients.
Arsenic can kill and it also causes cancer, damages developing brains in babies and children, reducing IQ test scores, and disrupts important hormones in our bodies, and increases the risk of diabetes.
Children’s exposures to arsenic in infant rice cereal and other rice-based foods accounts for an estimated loss of up to 9.2 million IQ points among U.S. children ages 0-6. The FDA has not taken action, and this administration will let this travesty continue.
Almost none of us escape exposure to EDCs. BPA is so ubiquitous that government studies found it in over 90 percent of the people studied, representing a potentially huge liability for the companies that make BPA.
For the last century, the foundation of chemical regulation has been that small exposures are not a problem— a little won’t hurt you. Endocrine disruption turns that concept on its head, because hormones are active in such small amounts. Some endocrine disruptors are more potent in tiny amounts than in larger amounts. Fundamental changes in chemical testing and safety determination are needed to protect human health.
Weak regulations mean we really have no idea how many chemicals are endocrine disruptors. The EPA says there are about 85,000 chemicals used by industry, and most of them have never been tested to find out if they can disrupt our hormones. There is evidence that over 1,400 hormone-disrupting chemicals are endocrine disruptors.
About 25 years ago, Congress passed a law stating that the EPA should begin testing for endocrine disruption in a subset of those 85,000 chemicals. It hasn’t happened, and in today’s political climate it’s not likely to happen. Fortunately, there are some easy ways to reduce your exposure to EDCs:
- Eat organic food when it’s available and affordable.
- If you’re feeding a baby cereal, stay away from rice. Buy oat, wheat or multigrain cereal instead.
- Avoid household bug sprays.
- Use cosmetics, shampoos and soaps with simple, pronounceable ingredients.
- Use cleaners like vinegar and baking soda, or products with the Safer Choice logo.
- Keep rooms well aired and vacuum, clean and dust regularly to remove chemicals that can be found indoors.
- Minimize unnecessary use of plastics.
Add your name to the growing movement to stop EDCs.It’s time companies like Monsanto, Dow-DuPont and ExxonMobil take responsibility for gambling with your family’s health and the health of future generations and stop making these silent killer chemicals. We deserve nothing less.
Caroline Cox is the Senior Scientist at the Center for Environmental Health.