What's lurking in your household products? According to a recent study of more than 200 cleaning and personal care products, troublesome estrogen-mimicking chemicals linked with hormone disruption.
These so-called "endocrine disruptors" may disturb the way hormones work by either mimicking estrogen, androgen or thyroid hormones, or stimulating or blocking production of these hormones when absorbed into the body.
Earlier this month, endocrine disruptors were detected in vinyl shower curtains, dryer sheets, sunscreens and other common things found around the home. [Scroll down to see what products may be messing with your hormones]
"This is the first large, peer-reviewed study looking at hormone-disrupting and asthma-related chemicals in a wide range of consumer products," study author Robin Dodson, a researcher at the Silent Spring Institute, told HealthDay News.
Dodson and colleagues at the Silent Spring Institute published the research in Environmental Health Perspectives.
The most well-known endocrine disruptor is bisphenol-A, or BPA, a chemical found in some plastics that has been linked to heart disease, diabetes, infertility and behavioral and developmental problems in children exposed in utero. Many have already ditched plastic water bottles for stainless steel, and manufacturers have begun advertising their wares as BPA-free.
Other chemicals have triggered concern due to links to breast cancer. Breast cancer in particular seems to be intricately linked to exposure to hormones or chemicals that act as such.
But the research behind endocrine disruptors is still far from conclusive; industry groups continue to raise issues with researchers who, they say, are "alarming consumers unnecessarily", said a spokesman for the American Cleaning Institute in response to the recent study.
There is a middle ground, however. "You don't want to worry people beyond a reasonable extent," John Spengler, a professor of environmental health at Harvard School of Public Health, told USA Today. While the small amounts of chemicals found in these products may not pose a problem in isolated instances, there is a cumulative effect, he said.
The study's authors argue that they aren't instilling fear but raising awareness, and something as simple as better labeling on products would allow consumers to be more informed and make their own decisions.
While across the industry, some companies are opting to make the contents of their products more easily accessible to consumers, in the meantime, the authors suggest some easy, at-home ways to limit your exposure to the chemicals in these products, including:
- Using fewer household and personal products
- Avoiding vinyl products, products containing fragrances and anti-bacterial products
- Using soap and water for cleaning
Click through the slideshow below for some of the products highlighted by the researchers that you should watch out for, plus the chemicals that may be lurking in each. Then tell us in the comments what you do to limit your exposure to potential endocrine disruptors.
The phthalate DEHP has been found in vinyl products, and has been linked to respiratory problems. Flickr photo by krossbow
Fragrances not only trigger asthma but, the researchers say, have been shown to mimic estrogen, and can make breast cancer cells grow in laboratory tests.
Like in air fresheners, the fragrances in dryer sheets can trigger asthma and mimics estrogen. Flickr photo by cckaiser
It goes without saying that perfumes can similarly trigger respiratory issues. Some may also mimic estrogen. Flickr photo by Lauren Tucker Photography
Sunscreens have some of the largest concentrations of chemicals, according to the researchers, including cyclosiloxanes, according to WebMD, which produced liver and lung damage in mice in one study.
Even "alternative" cleaning solutions, considered by many of us to be greener and safer, tested positive for some of the 55 chemicals the researchers focused on. They suggest cleaning with baking soda and vinegar, when appropriate.
In detergents and soaps, watch out for alkylphenols, which seem to exhibit estrogen-like properties.
Many cosmetics contain parabens as preservatives, but the class of chemical is shown to act similarly to estrogen. However, like many potential endocrine disruptors, parabens have been approved up to a certain amount by the FDA for use in cosmetics, and most are used at levels far below the upper limit. Flickr photo by Jennie Faber
Along with cleaning solutions, the researchers tested "alternative" shampoos and conditioners and discovered potentially harmful chemicals. In fact, according to the press release: A consumer who used the tested alternative surface cleaner, tub and tile cleaner, laundry detergent, bar soap, shampoo and conditioner, facial cleanser and lotion and toothpaste would be exposed to 19 of the target compounds. Like cosmetics, many may also contain parabens.
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