What Are Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals? Part Two

How Do we Get Exposed To Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals?

How Do We Get Exposed To Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals?

As part of my article series on endocrine disrupting chemicals (read Part One here), Part Two will focus on where we get exposed, the Cocktail Effect and look into how endocrine disrupting chemicals affect our health.  

Where Do We Get Exposed To Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals?

Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals (EDCs) are omnipresent. That’s everywhere around us. Constantly. We ingest EDCs via the food we eat, absorb them through our skin and inhale them. The definition and how EDCs work is discussed in What Are Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals? Part One. Depending on the regulations in your country EDCs are found… 
In the sofa (brominated flame retardants) your are lying on right now, reading this blog post. 
In the shampoo and conditioner (preservatives, silicones) you wash your hair in. 
They are lining (bisphenol A = BPA, perfluorochemicals = PFCs) the can of baked beans you had for breakfast. 
In your toothpaste (triclosan) you used this morning and you’ll use again before going to bed.
They are on the surface of your apples (pesticides), in your canned food (preservatives) and chewing gum (butylated hydroxytoluene = BHT).
They are in the food packaging (plasticizers), wrapping the salami in your fridge.
They are in your favourite day cream and foundation (preservatives, silicones, SPFs), in your “can’t-live-without”-mascara (parabens, BHT) and in your beloved perfume (phthalates) rumbling in your handbag. 
In your sunscreen (ethylhexyl methoxycinnamate) you use every summer or all year round.
They are in your newly hauled t-shirt (nonylphenol ethoxylates = NPE)
And for the parents: They could be in your child’s pacifiers, baby bottles and in their plastic toys (plasticizers).
They are in the building materials of your house. In the paint on the walls. In the floor materials (phthalates). 
They are in your household cleaning products (perfluorochemicals), that you spray (and inhale) onto your stained bathroom sink.
For the drivers: They are in the steering wheel, dashboard and gearshift (phthalates, bisphenol A) of your car.
And that’s just where we meet the EDCs in our everyday life. They are also found in surface water around the world and in wildlife. Nothing and no one goes free. 


Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals Route Into Humans

Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals Route Into Humans [2]

Who Are The Culprits? 

As listed above it is evident that there are A LOT of tongue-twisting chemicals in our everyday life, that pose a threat to our health. In fact, nearly 800 chemicals are suspected to be disruptive to our hormone system, but only a disturbingly small fraction of these have been proper studied [1] (simply due to the lack of commercial and public interest in, and thus funding of, this kind research).   

The European Commision has gathered a Priority List of 564 candidate chemicals for further research. Find the list here http://ec.europa.eu/environment/chemicals/endocrine/strategy/substances_en.htm#priority_list

Listed below is an overview of categories and names of common EDCs we meet in our everyday life. I’ll go into detail with EDC-culprits in skincare and makeup in my next blog post. 

  • Preservatives: methylparaben, propylparaben, ethylparaben, triclosan, butylated hydroxytoluene = BHT
  • UV-filters: ethylhexyl methoxycinnamate, benzophenone-1, benzophenone-2, benzophenone-3, 3-benzylidene camphor, 4-methylbenzylidene camphor.
  • Surfactants, emollients, non-stick-modifiers: nonylphenols, cyclopentasiloxane, cyclotetrasiloxane, perfluorochemicals such as PTFE (aka. brand name TEFLON)
  • Plasticizers: phthalates and bisphenol A (BPA)
  • Insulation material: polychlorinated biphenyls (PCB) 
  • Pesticides


The Cocktail Effect Of Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals

The Cocktail Effect Of Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals

The Cocktail Effect

Initially the researchers looked at one EDC at a time, to detect whether it (isolated) could be harmful to us. In our everyday life, however, we are in fact bombarded with all sorts of EDCs simultaneously – great! 
So one EDC alone could be harmless but not-so-harmless – in fact have adverse health effects – when together with other EDCs. That’s the Cocktail Effect and it’s divided into three different kinds
  • Additive effect the sum of all the individual chemicals 1+1+1+1 = 4
  • Antagonistic effect the chemicals eliminate or reduce each other’s effect, 1+1+1+1 = 2
  • Synergistic effect the chemicals potentiate each other’s effect 1+1+1+1 = 8
The cocktail effect is what we all unwillingly are exposed to. We don’t live isolated, only exposed to e.g. what we apply to our skin. No, our bodies are constantly bombarded with hundreds of different chemicals that interact and affect our health in ways that researchers just recently are beginning to grasp the severity of. 

Threat To Our Health

Now let’s have a quick look at the severe health effects that EDCs pose, according to the current scientific evidence. The health effect on the unborn child of the pregnant women is one of my highest concerns and I’ll dedicate a whole blogpost on that topic, coming later.
Listed are diseases induced by exposure to EDCs during development in animal model and human studies [1]:
  • Breast/prostate cancer
  • Endometriosis
  • Infertility
  • Susceptibility to infections
  • Autoimmune disease
  • Diabetes, metabolic syndrome, early puberty
  • Obesity
  • Asthma
  • Heart disease, hypertension, stroke
  • Alzheimer disease
  • Parkinson disease
  • ADHD, learning disabilities


Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals Health Effects

Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals Health Effects During A Lifetime. Figure from reference [2]

To read the details on the health effect I recommend downloading “State of the Science of Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals – 2012”, see reference 1.
Before this post gets too lengthy I’ll wrap it up. In my upcoming blog posts I’ll zoom in on  
  1. How some UV-filters may be harmful to our fertility
  2. EDCs in makeup and skincare
  3. 5 Ways To Avoid Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals
Meanwhile you can watch my video What Are Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals? on my YouTube channel Makeup And Medicine. 
XO, Cæcilie Johansen, medical doctor, Denmark. 



  1. “State of the Science of Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals – 2012”. An assessment of the state of the science of endocrine disruptors prepared by a group of experts for the United Nations Environment Programme and World Health Organization, http://www.who.int/ceh/publications/endocrine/en/
  2. Figures from “State of the Science of Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals 2012 -Summary for Decision-Makers”, http://www.who.int/ceh/publications/endocrine/en/

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