Avoiding toxic plastic and other endocrine disruptors

BPA-Free Plastics

BPA-Free Plastics

By Catherine Haug, June 2015 (photo, right, from NPR (1))

Mercola (2) has an article about toxic chemicals (not just plastics), most of which are endocrine disruptors. That means that they either mimic the action of hormones from our endocrine system, or they block the cells’  binding sites for our natural hormones so they cannot do their job. It appears that the majority of these toxins affect the sex hormones, resulting in early puberty in boys and girls; low testosterone in mature males, and birth defects. Some also affect our digestive system.

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Read on for a listing of the 12 most common endocrine disruptors, and how to avoid them.

Hormone Disruptors

The following are the most common hormone-disrupting chemicals. The list is from Mercola (2); the explanations are from various sources as indicated. If no source is listed, it is from my own extensive education in chemistry:

  • Bisphenol-A (BPA), and its relatives such as BPS, is used in polycarbonate containers (plastic) for foods and beverages; in epoxy linings of cans for food; sports equipment, medical and dental devices, dental fillings, sealants, CDs and DVDs, household electronics, eyeglass lenses, foundry castings, and the lining of water pipes (9).
  • Dioxin, is a byproduct of the manufacture of other substances, and as such is present as a contaminant in drinking water and synthetic products such as herbicides.(10)
  • Atrazine, a common herbicide, second only to glyphosate (Roundup). (9)
  • Phthalates, while not a plastic in themselves, they are used in conjunction with plastics to soften and increase the flexibility of plastics such as PVC. They are common in many personal care products such as shampoos, enteric coatings of pharmaceuticals and supplements, and many other common household and construction industry products (9).
  • Percholorate, a salt comprised of a chlorine and oxygen. It is most commonly used in rocket fuels; it is also used to make flares, explosives, blasting agents, fireworks, and military munitions such as grenades. (8)
  • Fire retardants, commonly used to treat fabrics, furniture, children’s clothing and bedding; also used for fighting environmental fires as well as in homes and businesses.
  • Perfluorinated chemicals (PFCs), such as teflon and other non-stick or stain-resistant coatings, and used in shampoo, dental floss, and denture cleaners (5)
  • Organophosphate pesticides, such as Malathion and Sarin (4)
  • Glycol ethers, solvents used in paints and cleaners
  • Lead, heavy metal found in paint prior to 1977, and also found in gasoline, plastic toys, old water pipes, and more.
  • Mercury, heavy metal found in silver amalgam fillings for teeth, thermometers, contaminated seafood, some vaccines (6). It is the most toxic substance known to man.
  • Arsenic, heavy metal commonly found in groundwater, and in foods and beverages, such as apple juice, rice. (7)

Tips to Help You Avoid Toxic Chemicals

The following is from Mercola (2).

You are the best one to keep your family safe. Although no one can successfully steer clear of ALL chemicals and pollutants, you can minimize your exposure by keeping a number of key principles in mind.

  1. Eat a diet focused on locally grown, fresh, and ideally organic whole foods. Processed and packaged foods are a common source of chemicals such as BPA and phthalates. Wash fresh produce well, especially if it’s not organically grown.
  2. Choose grass-pastured, sustainably raised meats and dairy to reduce your exposure to hormones, pesticides, and fertilizers. Avoid milk and other dairy products that contain the genetically engineered recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBGH or rBST).
  3. Rather than eating conventional or farm-raised fish, which are often heavily contaminated with PCBs and mercury, supplement with a high-quality krill oil, or eat fish that is wild-caught and lab tested for purity, such as wild-caught Alaskan salmon.
  4. Buy products that come in glass bottles rather than plastic or cans, as chemicals can leach out of plastics (and plastic can linings), into the contents; be aware that even “BPA-free” plastics typically leach other endocrine-disrupting chemicals that are just as bad for you as BPA.
  5. Store your food and beverages in glass, rather than plastic, and avoid using plastic wrap.
  6. Use glass baby bottles.
  7. Replace your non-stick pots and pans with ceramic or glass cookware.
  8. Filter your tap water for both drinking AND bathing. If you can only afford to do one, filtering your bathing water may be more important, as your skin absorbs contaminants. To remove the endocrine-disrupting herbicide Atrazine, make sure your filter is certified to remove it. According to the EWG, perchlorate can be filtered out using a reverse osmosis filter.
  9. Look for products made by companies that are Earth-friendly, animal-friendly, sustainable, certified organic, and GMO-free. This applies to everything from food and personal care products to building materials, carpeting, paint, baby items, furniture, mattresses, and others.
  10. Use a vacuum cleaner with a HEPA filter to remove contaminated house dust. This is one of the major routes of exposure to flame retardant chemicals.
  11. When buying new products such as furniture, mattresses, or carpet padding, consider buying flame retardant free varieties, containing naturally less flammable materials, such as leather, wool, cotton, silk, and Kevlar.
  12. Avoid stain- and water-resistant clothing, furniture, and carpets to avoid perfluorinated chemicals (PFCs).
  13. Make sure your baby’s toys are BPA-free, such as pacifiers, teething rings, and anything your child may be prone to suck or chew on—even books, which are often plasticized. It’s advisable to avoid all plastic, especially flexible varieties.
  14. Use natural cleaning products or make your own. Avoid those containing 2-butoxyethanol (EGBE) and methoxydiglycol (DEGME)—two toxic glycol ethers that can compromise your fertility and cause fetal harm.
  15. Switch over to organic toiletries, including shampoo, toothpaste, antiperspirants, and cosmetics. EWG’s Skin Deep database (3) can help you find personal care products that are free of phthalates and other potentially dangerous chemicals.
  16. Replace your vinyl shower curtain with a fabric one.
  17. Replace feminine hygiene products (tampons and sanitary pads) with safer alternatives.
  18. Look for fragrance-free products. One artificial fragrance can contain hundreds—even thousands—of potentially toxic chemicals. Avoid fabric softeners and dryer sheets, which contain a mishmash of synthetic chemicals and fragrances.


  1. NPR photo: npr.org/2011/03/02/134196209/study-most-plastics-leach-hormone-like-chemicals
  2. Mercola: articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2015/06/06/chemical-exposure.aspx
  3. EWG Skin Deep Database: ewg.org/skindeep
  4. Toxipedia on organophosphate pesticides: toxipedia.org/display/toxipedia/Organophosphates
  5. watoxics.org/chemicals-of-concern/perfluorinated-compounds-pfcs
  6. Mercola: articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2013/01/06/dr-shade-on-mercury-exposure.aspx
  7. Medicine Net on arsenic: .medicinenet.com/arsenic_poisoning/page5.htm
  8. NIH Toxtown, on percholorates: toxtown.nlm.nih.gov/text_version/chemicals.php?id=75
  9. Wikipedia on phthalates: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phthalate; on Atrazine: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atrazine; on BPA: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bisphenol_A
  10. Dioxin Facts: dioxinfacts.org/questions_answers

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