It’s almost impossible to avoid any exposure to endocrine disruptors in the modern world but we can make safer choices about the products we buy and the food we eat to reduce the risk of exposure to them in our daily lives.
There are lots of simple changes we can make to reduce the risk of exposure to EDCs in our home.
Many indoor fragrance products including air fresheners and scented candles use artificial fragrances made from chemicals that could contain endocrine disruptors. These can be replaced with products using more natural ingredients or used less often.
Air fresheners can linger indoors for quite long periods, so it is important to keep rooms well aired whenever possible. Regular vacuuming and cleaning can also help to remove chemicals that can build up in the home. An easy change to make it to use smaller amounts of cleaning products and antibacterial sprays which can be just as efficient when used at lower concentrations.
It’s getting easier to find out more about the ingredients in household products such as paints and kitchen cleaners to help make more informed choices. Manufacturers are slowly responding to consumer demand for more information about what chemicals they use in their products. It can be as simple as reading a product label to avoid bringing household products with endocrine disrupting properties into your home.
Garden chemicals can also be a source of chemicals with endocrine disrupting properties so if you can’t avoid using them, wear breathing protection when spraying at high concentrations. It’s also best to spray when there is no wind to ensure that less spray becomes airborne and targets the insect or weed more efficiently.
In the EU there are tight regulations restricting the use of flame retardant chemicals used in soft furnishings, beds, carpets, and child car seats. It’s almost impossible to buy many types of new furniture without a compulsory flame retardant, so the only safe way to reduce exposure to the chemicals is to ventilate indoor spaces thoroughly and open car windows in new cars.
For older products containing foam exposed by surface damage such as car seats, cushions and pillows, discard items safely and ventilate any space where they’ve been stored well.
There are some basic rules to follow to reduce our exposure to endocrine disruptors when buying or cooking food. Whilst the evidence about the health benefits of organically grown food rumbles on, it makes sense whenever possible to choose foods that have been grown without the use of chemicals. In these times of pandemic and lockdown many thousands of novice gardeners are trying their hand at growing their own, free from the chemicals used in high intensity food farming.
When cooking or frying food especially meat with high fat contents that can pollute indoor air quality, use ventilation and open windows wherever possible. Another easy step to follow is to choose food when it is in season to increase its freshness and to reduce carbon footprint from long haul transportation. Wash all fruit and vegetables in clean water to remove chemicals, especially highly perishable fruits such as grapes, raspberries, and strawberries.
Whilst there has been a lot of research about the health risks of chemicals leaching from plastic food containers to food the evidence isn’t yet clear. The best advice is to cook food from fresh whenever possible, and if heating food supplied in plastic containers, transfer it into a non-plastic container before heating. It’s also a good idea to recycle old plastic tubs used for food storage and replace with upcycled glass, steel containers or ceramic storage.
Ingredients used in the manufacture of everyday personal care products include chemicals that are widely considered to have endocrine disrupting properties. EDCs make regular appearances in the ingredient’s list of thousands of toiletries, fragrances, and make-up according to the EU Environment Commission, including phenols and parabens.
On the aisles of health and beauty retailers there are the first signs of change. It can be hard to decipher which products are free of endocrine disruptors, but there is an emerging selection with clearer ingredients labels. Products including shampoo and body lotions are being presented as ‘Free from’ certain chemical groups – including parabens and phthalates.
Although there’s very little consistency on product labelling yet, it is becoming easier to check ingredients and make more informed choices about which chemicals we will accept in our health and beauty regimes. It’s never been more important to check the label before you buy.
We buy a lot of products, but in some instances, we can reduce unnecessary exposure to potential endocrine disruptors by making more considered choices. For example, by choosing a steel bottomed pan rather than a non-stick frying pan we can avoid the endocrine disrupting chemicals used in the manufacturing process; all we need is a bit more elbow grease to clean the pan.
We could also think about what “clean” really means to us; does our oven need to be shiny like new? Many of the chemicals used for cleaning ovens carry warnings because they contain toxic chemicals. A steel scourer and a bit more patience can yield the same result. The same is true of many cleaning products which are potentially harmful if inhaled, bleach and toilet cleaning products for example. By opening a window when we use them, we’re instantly making our indoor environment safer.