As more and more people become aware of possible toxins from pesticides and hormones in their food, “clean” eating – consuming only organic and local food – is becoming more and more popular and accessible.
But avoiding the chemicals that can make us sick isn’t always as simple as a shift in your diet – potentially poisonous ingredients are in everything from plastics to personal hygiene products. Recently, concerns about cosmetic products in particular have been raised, and at the centre of the discussion are hormone-disrupting chemicals known as xenoestrogens.
What Are Xenoestrogens?
Xenoestrogens are endocrine-disrupting chemicals (or EDCs) that are found in our environment, food, and consumer products.
EDCs “interfere with hormone biosynthesis, metabolism, or action resulting in a deviation from normal homeostatic control or reproduction” – in short, they mess with functions of your body that are regulated by hormones such as oestrogen and testosterone(1).
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Xenoestrogens disrupt oestrogen function specifically – which is responsible for bone growth, blood clotting and reproduction in women and men.
What Are The Dangers Posed By Oestrogen Disruption?
While there are many functions of the body that can be disrupted by EDCs such as xenoestrogens, of the most concern to doctors – especially pediatricians – is the way they can affect human development, slowing or, more often, speeding up things like puberty.
There is strong evidence suggesting that the start of menstruation in girls is happening on average six months earlier than it was as early as 40 years ago – with breast development starting two whole years earlier, according to researchers at UC Berkeley.
Author of the book The New Puberty: How To Navigate Early Development In Today’s Girls, Juliana Deardorff believes that EDCs are to blame for the fact that girls are reaching sexual maturity sooner than ever before – and that these chemicals are all around us.
“There’s evidence that pesticides and flame retardants mimic hormones in our bodies and act as endocrine disruptors,” Deardorff said in a recent interview with UC Berkley’s NewsCenter.
“Other suspects are chemicals called plasticizers, like in the lining of cans and food containers… There has been some interesting recent work examining various chemicals in personal care products, such as cosmetics and body lotions.” Deardorff’s suspicions are backed by scientific research – at least one study has pinpointed cosmetic products as a major source of xenoestrogens(2).
Early onset of puberty is associated with increased risk of developing breast cancer in girls, and exposure to xenoestrogens has been shown to have adverse effects on the reproductive development of boys as well(3).
Avoiding EDCs takes commitment, but it can be managed. Avoid plastic food containers and hormone-treated food; whenever possible, buy locally-sourced, organic meat and veggies, and store them in glass containers rather than in plastic. Check the labels on your cosmetic and skincare products as well, and opt for all-natural products whenever possible.
-  http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2726844/
-  http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24466711
-  http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1469672/