Hidden Dangers: Part Three

Endocrine Disruptors

Did you know that we have sent enough plastic trash into the ocean to create a floating plastic trash pile twice as big as Texas?  It’s between San Francisco and Hawaii.  Cleanup is starting, and it will take decades, but that’s not the only problem with all the plastics we use.  Plastics and chemicals used with plastic products are part of a large group of environmental chemical dangers called endocrine disruptors. Why should we be concerned? How can we avoid them as much a possible? What are some simple steps you can take to reduce your risk?  While you can learn more about these from resources such as the NRDC, the NIH and the WHO, today let’s simply focus on the one that seems most ubiquitous in our environment, plastic.

A brief intro from the NIH will help: 

“Endocrine disruptors are chemicals that may interfere with the body’s endocrine system and produce adverse developmental, reproductive, neurological, and immune effects in both humans and wildlife. A wide range of substances, both natural and man-made, are thought to cause endocrine disruption, including pharmaceuticals, dioxin and dioxin-like compounds, polychlorinated biphenyls, DDT and other pesticides, and plasticizers such as bisphenol A.  Endocrine disruptors may be found in many everyday products – including plastic bottles.”

  • How do they harm us?  Simply put, these compounds seem to mimic hormones that are naturally occurring - like estrogens, androgens and thyroid hormones - and can block normal metabolic and hormone activity in the body.  According to the Lancet, “Long-term, low-level exposure to endocrine-disrupting chemicals costs the U.S. $340 billion in annual health care spending and lost wages, according to a study of epidemiological data” (www.thelancet.com/diabetes-endocrinology. Published Online December 6, 2016 http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/S2213-8587(16)30399-0)

Although we do not know all the effects of these chemicals, we have evidence that they can lower fertility, increase incidence of endometriosis and some cancers. And it’s also clear that pregnant women, infants and children are at highest risk, likely affecting their health for decades.  

What can you do? 

Carry a stainless steel water bottle and avoid using plastic bottles and straws.  If possible when you are offered water in a plastic bottle, ask for your water bottle to be refilled instead. In your kitchen, take steps to be plastic free. Replace the plastic storage containers with glass.  Do not reheat food in plastic containers. Avoid Styrofoam.

If you have small children, decrease their plastic exposure by choosing non-plastic toys and containers.  

Want to learn more that you can do?  Here’s a helpful link: 


​​​​​​​ Please let us know how we can support you ! 

To your health,

Robert Pendergrast, MD, MPH



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