Common Endocrine Disruptors

thyroid hormones chemicals

In our post The Thyroid, Your Hormones and Endocrine Disruptors we briefly covered the who/what/how of endocrine disruptors.

The EWG recently published a list of the 12 worst hormone-disrupting chemicals we may be coming into contact with on a regular basis. The most common include BPA, Phthalates, Fire Retardants and Organophosphate Pesticides. Here’s a brief explanation of what these four chemicals do to our bodies and how you can minimize your exposure to them.


BPA (or scientifically, bisphenol-A) is an estrogenic plastic by-product used in the manufacture of polycarbonate plastics that can leach into our food or drink from the plastic containers holding them. BPA is an estrogen-mimicking compound that tricks our bodies into thinking it is the real thing. BPA has been linked to everything from breast and others cancers to reproductive problems, obesity, early puberty and heart disease. The scary thing is, 93% of Americans have BPA in their bodies!

How to avoid it?

Many canned foods are lined with BPA (even some of the BPA free ones use similar chemicals or BPA byproducts) so always aim for fresh food. When storing food make sure it is in glass as, especially when still warm, BPA from plastic containers (and those take-away plastic cups you get from coffee shops) can leach into our food. Also, plastics with a recycling label #7 or marked with “PC” contain BPA, so avoid these.


About 50 billion cells in our bodies die every day – and that’s normal. But some chemicals, like phthalates can actually trigger signals to cells to make them die faster and earlier than they should. Avoiding this chemical is particularly important for sufferers of thyroid problems as some studies have linked phthalates to thyroid irregularities as well as hormone changes, fertility problems, birth defects in the male reproductive system, obesity and diabetes.

How to avoid it?

Like BPA, many plastic food containers and plastic food wrap are made with phthalates. Plastics with the recycling label #3 and even some kids’ toys also contain phthalates. Scarily, many personal care products contain phthalates hidden behind labels such as ‘parfum’ or ‘fragrance’. Given that us, as women, use personal care products on our skin (our biggest organ) daily, make sure they are phthalate-free (you can search for these products here). We like to use the rule “if you wouldn’t eat it, don’t put it on your skin”.

Fire Retardants

Fire retardant chemicals are especially scary for sufferers of thyroid dysfunction. These chemicals imitate thyroid hormones and disrupt their activity. Furthermore, they are extremely persistent, Swedish scientists in 1999 found that women’s breast milk contained an endocrine-disrupting chemical found in fire retardants, and the levels had been doubling every five years since 1972!

How to avoid it?

Try to avoid foam products as many of these are made with fire retardants. Instead, look for products that are filled with polyester instead. Repair any ripped covers on foam furniture or replace the furniture. Many people might not like this one, but vacuum and dust. These chemicals accumulate in household dust (make sure your vacuum fitted with a HEPA filter to get pollutants out of your rugs and floors).

Organophosphate Pesticides

So we have all of these left over compounds created by the Nazis for chemical warfare, what are we going to do with them? Here’s an idea, let’s use them as pesticides on our food! As crazy as this sounds, unfortunately it is true. At the end of WW2, scientists modified these chemical warfare compounds to target the nervous system of insects to protect agricultural crops. Given they make insects insides explode, what damage are they doing to our bodies? Studies have linked the use of these pesticides (and others) to slowed and abnormal brain development, fertility problems, behavioral issues and interfering with testosterone, lowering the hormone and altering thyroid hormone levels.

How to avoid it?

Always eat organic! If possible, also filter your tap water as pesticide residuals can run into water ways.


For more information on endocrine disruptors, check out these articles: