An endocrine disruptor is an exogenous chemical or mixture of chemicals that can bind to the body’s endocrine receptors to activate or block natural hormone synthesis, resulting in modification of hormonal signals and normal endocrine function. Alternately, these chemicals can mimic naturally occurring hormones in the body, including estrogen (the female sex hormone), androgen (the male sex hormone), and thyroid hormones, potentially resulting in overstimulation and developmental abnormalities.1
Consider the following suggestions to manage risk of endocrine disruptor exposure among the pediatric population:
– Avoiding the use of soft plastic teethers, toys, pacifiers, and sippy cups in young children. BPA and other endocrine disruptors can leach out of plastics, including children’s toys, plastic containers, and plastic wrap.2 Wooden and cloth toys can be substituted for plastic toys. Food can be stored in glass containers. The number printed on the bottom of plastic products indicate the kind of plastic the product is made of. The most toxic plastics are #7, #3 and #6. Plastics labeled #1, #2, #4 and #5 are considered relatively more safe.3 Table 1 lists classification of plastic resins with examples of products manufactured from each of these types of plastics.3
– Breastfeeding infants. Breastfeeding women can limit the possibility of their babies’ exposure to BPA by reducing their use of plastic food containers and canned foods during breastfeeding while still maintaining a healthy diet. For bottle feeding infants, glass bottles may be used instead of plastic baby bottles.
– Greater emphasis on use of unprocessed foods over canned food, especially during and after pregnancy. Eating unprocessed foods reduces exposure to BPA, phthalates, and other endocrine disruptors that are involved in food manufacturing.
– Checking your state for any fish advisories or recent contamination if fish from lakes, rivers, or bays, is a regular food consumed in a household.4
– Using high-frequency air filters. Many endocrine disruptors are suspended in dust as particulate matter and contribute to poor indoor air quality. Use of high-frequency air filters and HEPA filters on vacuum cleaners can help reduce dust toxins in the house. Removing shoes before entering the house prevents bringing dust and debris inside, keeping floors, carpets and other surfaces clean.5
– Ensuring chemical flame retardants used in televisions, computers and cellphones are placed out of reach of infants and properly discarding these products. When purchasing new furniture, consider purchasing baby furniture filled with cotton, polyester, or wool, instead of polyurethane foam.6
The benefits of adopting primary preventive measures to prevent diseases that are potentially caused by exposure to endocrine disruptors can be an important step to reduce long-term effects. Educating parents and caregivers about endocrine disruptors and their sources is an important step in spreading awareness about endocrine disruptors.
By Radha Dhingra
1. Zoeller, R. T., Brown, T. R., Doan, L. L., Gore, A. C., Skakkebaek, N. E., Soto, A. M., … Vom Saal, F. S. (2012). Endocrine-Disrupting Chemicals and Public Health Protection: A Statement of Principles from The Endocrine Society. Endocrinology, 153, 4097–4110. doi.org/10.1210/en.2012-1422
2. Le, H.H., Carlson, E.M., Chua, J.P., Belcher, S. M. (2008). Bisphenol A is released from polycarbonate drinking bottles and mimics the neurotoxic actions of estrogen in developing cerebellar neurons. Toxicology Letters, 176, 149–156. doi.org/10.1016/j.toxlet.2007.11.001
3. ASTM International. (2018). Resin Identification Codes. West Conshohocken – PA, USA. Retrieved from https://www.astm.org/SNEWS/SO_2008/wilhelm_so08.html
4. Baker, M.E., Ruggeri, B., Sprague, L.J., Eckhardt-Ludka, C., Lapira, J., Wick, I., … Soverchia, L. (2009). Analysis of Endocrine Disruption in Southern California Coastal Fish Using an Aquatic Multispecies Microarray. Environ Health Perspect 117, 223–230. doi.org/10.1289/ehp.11627
5. Environment Working Group. (2011). Reducing your exposure to PBDEs in your home. Retrieved from http://www.ewg.org/pbdefree
6. National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences. (2017). Retrieved from https://www.niehs.nih.gov/health/topics/agents/endocrine/index.cfm\