Environmental Working Group has released it’s 2015 list of 12 worst endocrine-disrupting foods. What’s an endocrine, you might ask?

The endocrine system refers to the collection of glands that secrete hormones directly into our circulatory systems which are carried towards a target organ. The major endocrine glands include the pineal gland, pituitary gland, pancreas, ovaries, testes, thyroid gland, parathyroid gland, hypothalamus, gastrointestinal tract and adrenal gland. It also includes many other organs that are part of other body systems, such as bone, kidney, liver, heart, and gonads, which have secondary endocrine functions. Kind of important.

So, which foods really mess you up? Here’s a list:

Canned and plastic-stored foods of all kinds…..hello estrogen

The BPA in plastics and canned foods imitates the sex-hormone estrogen. 93% of us have BPA in our bodies, including children and infants. BPA has been linked to everything from breast and others cancers to reproductive problems, obesity, early puberty and heart disease. It’s impossible to completly avoid plastics – you can’t hardly buy anything not wrapped in plastic, and don’t forget the massive BPA load in cash register receipts – but knowledge is power.

Get things out of plastic as soon as possible when you get home. I don’t know if it helps, but I let things “air out” or rinse them off before storing them in glass or stainless steel containers at home. If I have to use plastic wrap, I cover the item first in parchment or waxed paper. Skip the produce bags, you simply throw them away, and place items in your cart as is – wash them when you get home, you should anyway.

BPA-free plastic is no good either, it has BPS which is even worse! BPA isn’t the only chemical that plastic leaches, it’s just the most well-known. There are no safe plastics, not even “food-grade.”

These contaminated animal products lower your sperm count and quality

Dioxins form during many industrial processes when chlorine or bromine are burned in the presence of carbon and oxygen. Unfortunately, they are already wide-spread in our environment so it’s another case of reduce, not eliminate.

Dioxins can disrupt the delicate ways that both male and female sex hormone signaling occurs in the body. Recent research has shown that exposure to low levels of dioxin in the womb and early in life can both permanently affect sperm quality and lower the sperm count in men during their prime reproductive years. Dioxins are also very long-lived, and build up both in the body and in the food chain as powerful carcinogens and can also affect the immune and reproductive systems.

The National Resources Defense Council states, “Dioxins and furans are among the most hazardous chemicals known, and even extremely tiny doses have been shown to cause negative health effects. These chemicals are listed by several governmental agencies as known causes of cancer in humans. Indeed, studies have linked dioxins and furans to many types of cancer, as well as to reproductive problems, abnormalities in fetal development, immune alterations and disruption of hormones.

Because dioxins and furans are attracted to fat and are resistant to metabolism, they are notorious for accumulating in the animals humans eat, and by that route accumulating in humans. Within the human body, the highest levels of these chemicals are in fat and breast milk.”

According to EPA, only 50% of dioxin sources are known. Of these, 95% comes from combustion processes. Garbage and medical waste incinerators are the largest identified sources, with a high source coming from PVC plastics. The remaining sources are likely chemical manufacturing/ processing and industrial/municipal processes, and the pulp/paper industries.

What to eat? Well, the most likely sources of Dioxin-contaminated food are animal products, since animals eat plants and drink or live in water, and breathe air – kind of like you and me. Is this a problem?

You can cut down on your exposure by eating fewer meat, fish, milk, eggs and butter products. This is especially important for mothers who breastfeed their babies. Breastmilk is such an amazing food for babies: it increases intelligence, physical and emotional stamina, as well as gives babies immunity to diseases, so it’s a shame that breastmilk is becoming contaminated with so many chemicals.

Formula is not a better option as formula is made with water and contains GMO’s and pesticides, plus it is nowhere near as nutritionally sound nor is it created moment by moment on a nutritionally-adapted basis perfect for your own child,

At the end of the day, it’s not the meat causing health problems, it seems, it’s the chemicals we are dumping into the air and water that the animals eat. Nice.

Feminization of males – I’m not making this up!

Feminization is the hormonally-induced development of female sexual characteristics in otherwise male beings. Yikes.

Researchers have found that exposure to even low levels of the herbicide atrazine can turn male frogs into females that produce completely viable eggs.

“Atrazine has been linked to breast tumors, delayed puberty and prostate inflammation in animals, and some research has linked it to prostate cancer in people.” [EWG]

According to the CDC “Atrazine is used on crops such as sugarcane, corn, pineapples, sorghum, and macadamia nuts, and on evergreen tree farms and for evergreen forest regrowth. It has also been used to keep weeds from growing on both highway and railroad rights-of-way. Atrazine can be sprayed on croplands before crops start growing and after they have emerged from the soil. Some of the trade names of atrazine are Aatrex®, Aatram®, Atratol®, and Gesaprim®.”

Atrazine breaks down excruciatingly slowly and so is a problem in runoff, often found in drinking water wells near agricultural areas. Because is can be carried on dust, atrazine has been found in rainwater more than 180 miles (300 kilometers) from the nearest application area. It does not accumulate in animals food sources, so the typical source for people is drinking water, and possibly, breathing in dust from commercial farms.

Families that live on farms using Atrazine have experienced higher than normal levels of premature birth, low fetal weight and heart, urinary, as well as limb defects. Atrazine has been shown to slow down the development of fetuses in animals, and exposure to high levels of atrazine during pregnancy caused reduced survival of fetuses. Then there’s that pesky feminization thing.

How to avoid it? Do not use Atrazine on your farm. Here is the Land Stewardship Program’s list of alternatives. Buy organic produce and get a drinking water filter certified to remove atrazine. For help finding a suitable filter, check out Environmental Working Group’s buying guide.

Death to testicles – said Phthalates

Sure, cells die everyday. But, chemicals called phthalates can trigger what’s known as “death-inducing signaling” in testicular cells, making them die earlier than they should. A moment of silence for all the men, please….

As if that’s not enough, phthalate exposure is linked to hormone changes, lower sperm count, less mobile sperm, birth defects in the male reproductive system, obesity, diabetes and thyroid irregularities.

How to avoid phthalates? Again, plastic food containers, children’s toys (some phthalates are already banned in kid’s products), and plastic wrap made from PVC, which has the recycling label #3.

Some personal care products also contain phthalates, so avoid products that simply list added “fragrance,” since this catch-all term sometimes means hidden phthalates. Find phthalate-free personal care products with EWG’s Skin Deep Database.

Rocket-fuel tainted water made me fat

That’s right. According to government data, Perchlorate, a component in rocket fuel, contaminates much of our produce and milk.

Perchlorate competes with the nutrient iodine, which the thyroid gland needs to make thyroid hormones. You know about the thyroid ladies, right? It produces hormones that regulate metabolism in adults (told you) and are critical for proper brain and organ development in infants and young children.

You can reduce perchlorate in your drinking water by installing a reverse osmosis filter. As for food? Not so much. However, if you are eating sea salt, switch to one that contains iodide, which provides iodine to your body. You can also add dried kelp flakes to your food, a natural source of iodide, available at Asian or health stores. This one addition helped my thyroid production immensely.

Polar bear meat…..ok, who eats that but it’s getting in our breast milk, too

According to the EWG, “In 1999, some Swedish scientists studying women’s breast milk discovered something totally unexpected: The milk contained an endocrine-disrupting chemical found in fire retardants, and the levels had been doubling every five years since 1972! These incredibly persistent chemicals, known as polybrominated diphenyl ethers or PBDEs, have since been found to contaminate the bodies of people and wildlife around the globe – even polar bears.”

PBDEs can imitate thyroid hormones in our bodies and disrupt their activity, leading to lower IQ, and other significant health effects. Several kinds of PBDEs have been phased out, but remain in the environment, contaminating people and wildlife for decades to come.

It’s nearly impossible to avoid, but what you can do is to us a vacuum cleaner with a HEPA filter, which can cut down on toxic-laden house dust, avoid reupholstering foam furniture, and be careful when ripping up old carpet as the padding underneath may contain PBDEs.

Lead still a problem: lowered sex drive and IQ, as well as increasing anxiety, depression

The EWG reports, “Lead harms almost every organ system in the body and has been linked to a staggering array of health effects, including permanent brain damage, lowered IQ, hearing loss, miscarriage, premature birth, increased blood pressure, kidney damage and nervous system problems.”

It lowers sex hormone levels and can disrupt the hormone signaling that regulates the body’s major stress system, and is implicated in high blood pressure, diabetes, anxiety and depression.

The CDC warns of two main sources of lead exposure:

Paint: Lead may be found in the paint on toys. Lead was banned in house paint, on products marketed to children, and in dishes or cookware in the United States in 1978. But it is still widely used in other countries and therefore can still be found on imported toys. It may also be found on older toys made in the United States before the ban.

Plastic: The use of lead in plastics has not been banned. Lead softens the plastic and makes it more flexible so that it can go back to its original shape. It may also be used in plastic toys to stabilize molecules from heat. When the plastic is exposed to substances such as sunlight, air, and detergents the chemical bond between the lead and plastics breaks down and forms dust.

Remember, children often put toys, fingers, and other objects in their mouth, exposing themselves to lead paint or dust. The CDC says if you think that your child has been exposed to a toy containing lead, remove the toy immediately. Most children with elevated blood lead levels have no symptoms. The only way to tell is to have a blood lead test. Your health care provider can help you decide whether such a test is needed and can also recommend treatment if your child has been exposed.

Photos and descriptions of recalled toys can be found at www.cpsc.gov or by calling 1-800-638-2772 .

The good news is that children with healthy diets absorb less lead. Healthy means eating a majority of fresh fruits and vegetables, with little to no processed or “fast foods” and as much organic( produce or meat/dairy) food as possible. A good water filter can also reduce your exposure to lead in drinking water.

Turkey, rice, and apple juice

If you’ve read my article Rice grown in southern U.S. found unsuitable for human consumption you know many American foods were found to contain harmful levels of inorganic arsenic, including baby cereal, apple juice, rice, and commercially raised chicken, turkey and pigs. Arsenic is fed to animals to make them gain weight. Let that sink in… Since 2013 FDA rulings, only turkeys are currently being given arsenic-containing drugs.

Organic arsenic found in shellfish is not harmful.

Other sources of contamination are drinking water, contaminated soil, or wood preserved with arsenic.

In high doses, arsenic is deadly. In smaller amounts, it can cause skin, bladder and lung cancer, as well as interfere with normal hormone functioning in the glucocorticoid system. The glucocorticoid system regulates how our bodies process sugars and carbohydrates. It has been linked to weight gain/loss, protein wasting, immunosuppression, insulin resistance (which can lead to diabetes), osteoporosis, growth retardation and high blood pressure.

A lawsuit filed by Center for Food Safety (CFS) on behalf of CFS, the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP), and seven other U.S. food safety, agriculture, public health, and environmental groups…presented abundant science to FDA that organic arsenic compounds—like those added to animal feed—are directly toxic to animals and humans, but also that they convert to cancer-causing, inorganic arsenic inside of chickens, in manure-treated soil and in humans. First approved as animal feed additives in the 1940s, arsenic-containing compounds remained legal for use in U.S. chicken, turkey and swine production. They were never approved as safe for animal feed in the European Union, Japan and many other countries. [CDC]

There are water filters that reduce or eliminate arsenic. They range from $90 to over $500. Here is EWG’s list of filters.

Fish

Is there anything safe to eat anymore???

Mercury, a naturally occurring but toxic metal, gets into the air and the oceans primarily though burning coal. It is so rampant, most fish are highly contaminated, especially inland fish. Children under age 6 and pregnant women are most at risk since the metal is known to concentrate in the fetal brain and can interfere with brain development.

Mercury is also known to bind directly to the hormone that regulates women’s menstrual cycle and ovulation, interfering with normal signaling pathways. It may also play a role in diabetes, since mercury has been shown to damage cells in the pancreas that produce insulin, which is critical for the body’s ability to metabolize sugar.

The National Resources Defense Council advises “the solutions are fairly simple: in the short term, watch your consumption of high-mercury fish; in the longer term, help force power companies and other giant mercury polluters to switch to pollution-cutting technologies.”

To reduce your risk, restrict or eliminate certain fish from your diet, especially if you are at risk (children and pregnant women) including ahi or bigeye tuna, tilefish, swordfish, shark, king mackerel, marlin, orange roughy and fish caught in any waters that are subject to a mercury advisory. Women with elevated mercury levels should ideally begin avoiding or restricting their consumption of mercury-laden fish as much as a year before they become pregnant. Here is a guide to fish.

The best choices:

Anchovies
Butterfish
Catfish
Clam
Crab (Domestic)
Crawfish/Crayfish
Croaker (Atlantic)
Flounder*
Haddock (Atlantic)*
Hake
Herring
Mackerel (N. Atlantic, Chub)
Mullet
Oyster
Perch (Ocean)
Plaice
Pollock
Salmon (Canned)**
Salmon (Fresh)**
Sardine
Scallop*
Shad (American)
Shrimp*
Sole (Pacific)
Squid (Calamari)
Tilapia
Trout (Freshwater)
Whitefish
Whiting

Non-stick cookware

Perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) is a long-chain perfluorinated chemical (LCPFC) that does not occur naturally in the environment. The EPA has been investigating PFOA because it:

  • Is very persistent in the environment
  • Is found at very low levels both in the environment and in the blood of the general U.S. population
  • Remains in people for a very long time
  • Causes developmental and other adverse effects in laboratory animals.

The EPA concurrently stated consumers should have no concern with routine use of consumer products containing PFOA’s while also stating that it, along with “eight major companies in the industry, launched the 2010/15 PFOA Stewardship Program, in which companies committed to reduce global facility emissions and product content of PFOA and related chemicals by 95 percent by 2010, and to work toward eliminating emissions and product content by 2015.” Hmmm, sounds like some concern is entirely valid.

In addition, the “EPA remains concerned about LCPFCs being produced by companies that are not participating in the stewardship program and intends to take action to address those concerns.” We’re waiting.

PFOA (perfluorinated chemicals) exposure has been linked to decreased sperm quality, low birth weight, kidney disease, thyroid disease and high cholesterol, among other health issues. Scientists are still figuring out how PFOA affects the human body, but animal studies have found that it can affect thyroid and sex hormone levels.

Where are PFOA’s? You’re cooking with them everytime you use non-stick cookware. Perfluorochemicals are so widespread and extraordinarily persistent that 99 percent of Americans have these chemicals in their bodies. it does not break down in the environment…ever…meaning it will be showing up in people’s bodies for countless generations to come.

EWG reports that “Bird enthusiasts and veterinarians have known for decades that Teflon-coated and other non-stick cookware, if heated to high temperatures, is acutely toxic to birds. The peer-reviewed literature contains numerous reports of bird deaths linked to the use of Teflon and other non-stick pans and appliances in the home, beginning about 30 years ago. The birds die abruptly, usually shortly after new non-stick pans are heated for the first time.” Eww.

I seem to recall birds being used as “safety monitors” in mining because if the bird died, humans were soon to follow.

The only way to avoid PFOA’s Skip non-stick pans as well as stain and water-resistant coatings on clothing, furniture and carpets. Use ceramic-coated pans instead, or cast iron.

Those pesky pesticides on produce

Neurotoxic organophosphate compounds that the Nazis produced in huge quantities for chemical warfare during World War II were not used back then, but are quite popular today: on your dinner table.

After the war ended, American scientists used the same chemistry to develop a long line of pesticides that target the nervous systems of insects, despite many studies linking organophosphate exposure with interfering with the way testosterone communicates with cells, lowering testosterone and altering thyroid hormone levels.

The best way to avoid pesticide residue on food is to buy organic produce. Here’s a guide to EWG’s Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen.

Shrunken testicles…need I say more?

Rats exposed to chemicals called glycol ethers, which are common solvents in paints, cleaning products, brake fluid and cosmetics caused their testicles to shrink. European Union reports say that some of these chemicals “may damage fertility or the unborn child.”

Studies of painters have linked exposure to certain glycol ethers to blood abnormalities and lower sperm counts. Children who were exposed to glycol ethers from paint in their bedrooms had substantially more asthma and allergies.

When you are checking labels on skin care products, paint, and cleaning products avoid those containing 2-butoxyethanol (EGBE) and methoxydiglycol (DEGME).

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