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Endocrine Disruptors and Fertility

If you are thinking about getting pregnant or having a difficult time conceiving, it’s important to give some consideration to the increasing recognition of the impact of environmental toxins and endocrine disrupting chemicals on human health and fertility.

Researchers have tracked worrisome trends in increasing infertility rates over the past few decades, and the ubiquity of industrial chemicals that disrupt the human endocrine system are theorized as partly to blame. Although more research needs to be done, many organizations such as the American Academy of Pediatrics, Environmental Working Group, The Endocrine Society, the World Health Organization (WHO), and the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), are in agreement that these hormone disrupting chemicals pose a risk to human health and fertility.

Healthy fertility depends on balanced hormone levels. Hormones are the chemical messengers that are secreted by different glands in the body directly into the bloodstream that help to regulate a wide variety of physiological functions in the body, including metabolism, sleep, growth and development, mood, and reproduction, amongst many others. Endocrine disrupting chemicals (sometimes called EDCs for short) disrupt normal hormone functioning in a variety of ways - from potentially blocking or interfering the way certain hormones are made or controlled, increasing or decreasing normal hormone levels, as well as mimicking naturally occurring hormones in the body such as estrogen. Research has found that EDCs have very negative effects on viable eggs in women as well as sperm count in men.

Two of the most commonly used EDCs are bisphenol-A (also called BPA) and phthalates. BPA was originally used as a synthetic estrogen added to animal feed to help fatten the animals up, and it is currently added to plastic to help soften it and make it more pliable. Phthalates are also used to soften plastic (sometimes referred to as a “plasticizers”), as well as a solvent in many cosmetic and personal care products.

But fear not! There are many practical and pragmatic choices you can make to help significantly reduce your exposure to these troublesome chemicals. Here are a few of the important things you can do to help reduce your exposure to EDCs:

  • To the best of your ability try to minimize your use of plastic beverage bottles, plastic cutlery, and foods prepared or wrapped in plastic.

  • Avoid heating (especially microwaving) foods in plastic containers, as heating plastic containers causes the EDCs to leach out of the plastic.

  • Avoid washing any plastic items in the dishwasher, as this also causes the plastics to soften and leach out chemicals.

  • Avoid canned items, unless it states that the can lining is “BPA-free.”

  • Use cosmetics and personal care products made of natural and organic products that state “phthalate-free” on the label.

  • Avoid products with fragrances and heavy scents - phthalates are found in many common household items in this category, such as air fresheners, dryer sheets, and scented candles.

  • Break a sweat. Researchers have found that we eliminate and clear phthalates from our system in the process of sweating.

  • Taking regular Epsom salt baths helps to cleanse and clear the the tissues of chemicals. Use two cups of Epsom salts per bath.


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