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Plastics, Chemicals & Your Health

Many plastics and industrial chemicals are capable of interfering with the proper functioning of estrogen, androgen and thyroid hormones in humans and animals. These substances are called endocrine disruptors.


There are over 100 chemicals linked to the disturbing medical condition known as endocrine/hormone disruption. Scientists are reporting that chemicals and other compounds we are exposed to on a daily basis can mimic, block or otherwise interfere with the signals of naturally occurring hormones, particularly estrogens. These hormone/endocrine disrupting chemicals are also known as environmental estrogens, xeno (foreign) estrogens, or estrogen mimics.

Endocrine disruption is a problem that I see in my practice with disturbing frequency. The most startling cases are the 4-5 year old girls with “precocious puberty.” Some young girls are developing breasts and other characteristics of puberty starting at the staggering age of 4.

Estrogenic chemical compounds are affecting all of us, any age, either sex, and they are DANGEROUS. For women who are at high risk for breast cancer or other estrogen driven diseases, these extra estrogens are an insidious and often over-looked danger. They also pose a threat to men and boys.

Exposure to endocrine disruptors is associated with a number of serious conditions including neurological and behavioral problems, disruption of normal cellular communication, growth and developmental disorders, as well as an increased incidence of specific diseases (e.g., childhood diabetes, childhood cancer, and thyroid abnormalities).

Doctors and researchers are alarmed about the sharp increase in reproductive disorders including endometriosis, reduced sperm count, reproductive system cancers and fertility problems in adults of both sexes. There is concern that parents’ exposure to endocrine disrupting chemicals leads to birth defects in boys including undescended testicles and the growth of the urethra’s opening on the underside of the penis.

Children’s bodies are still developing and are vulnerable to chemical hormone disruption. A pediatrics study found that a substantial proportion of American girls have one or both of the signs of puberty, such as breast development and pubic hair as early as 7, and that 1% of all girls now have one or both at age 3. This is a medical condition known as precocious puberty,.

The most serious reproductive and developmental disruptors include DDT, PCBs (banned, yet still in the soil and environment) and dioxins. Both DDE and PCBs are known to mimic, or interfere with, sex hormones.

Girls with high pre-natal exposure to PCBs and DDE (a breakdown product of DDT) have been found to enter puberty early. Other highly suspected disruptors include APEs found in some detergents and shampoos, phthalates (plastic softeners,) and bisphenol-A which is used in dental sealants, 5 gallon plastic water jugs, baby bottles, and the linings of some food cans.

An American Plastics Council advertisement boasts that plastics are, ‘an important part of your healthy diet’. What they want you to subliminally register is that plastics are widely used in food preparation and packaging, and that the world would screech to a halt without them.

But, ironically, the advertisement has a deeper and, as it turns out, more sinister message that plastics have become part of our food. Cheese, vegetables, meats, dairy, think about it, nearly all the food you buy comes swaddled in cling film, sitting in Styrofoam, packaged in plastic bottles, or wrapped in plastic bags.

Gerber recently ran advertisements emphasizing the importance of their new organic baby formulas concluding with, ‘and now your baby’s food comes in plastic.’ ….I think we were supposed to cheer.


“The European Union has banned the use of phthalates in food containers and toys that small children might put in their mouths.” Discover, December 2000.

(in the US??) Plastics are categorized into 7 groups: numbered from 1-7. The number is in the recycling symbol on the plastic item. AVOID using plastic in contact with food wherever you can, because ALL plasticizers are suspect, and completely avoid #3 PVC, #6 PS, and #7 Polycarbonate.

#3 PVC is used to package food and liquids. Various plasticizer chemicals are added to soften PVC. Traces of adipates and phthalates can leak out of PVC into foods.

#6 Polystyrene (Styrofoam) PS can leach styrene into food. Styrene may disrupt hormones or reproduction.

#7 Polycarbonate can release bisphenol-A (BPA), another suspected hormone disrupter, into liquids and foods. Baby bottles and 5-gallon water bottles are often made of polycarbonate.

  • NEVER store food in plastic, especially foods containing fat like cheese, meat and oily sauces.

  • NEVER put hot food in plastic or Styrofoam containers NEVER microwave in plastic containers.

‘Microwavable or microwave-safe’ simply means that the container will not crumple into a soggy mess in the microwave. If you cannot avoid plastic wrapped products, reduce your exposure to plasticizers by removing food from the plastic wrapping as soon as you possibly can. Slice a thin layer from cheese (the part that touched the plastic), and store it in glass containers with a sugar cube to prevent mould growth.

Store food in glass or stainless steel containers. Plastic lids are safe as long as they do not touch food. Use unbleached parchment paper for wrapping sandwiches etc.

Minimize consumption of canned foods. Bisphenol-A (BPA) is an estrogen-mimicking compound that is a component of resins used to coat almost all food cans. BPA is also found in dental sealants, baby bottles and large water jugs. BPA has been suspected as being hazardous to humans for more than 70 years. The concern centers on long-term low-dose exposure-which disrupts the body?s delicate hormone balance.

Eat organic dairy, eggs and meat. Eat high fiber organic foods such as whole grains, vegetables and fruit. Fiber helps to prevent estrogenic-chemical absorption.

Replace commercial cosmetics with natural brands from your health store. Di-ethyl phthalate is found in colognes. Di-butyl phthalate is found in nail polish, some commercial hair-care products also contain estrogenic chemicals.

Consider Infrared Sauna use.

Work with your naturopath to determine which supplements can give you some protection and help your body to detox

In conclusion, I believe that it is important to presume that all chemicals are guilty until proven innocent — and to take evasive action. Your family’s health is potentially at risk.

SCORECARD If you are concerned about possible environmental pollutants in your state or county, I recommend this very informative (although somewhat disturbing) site:

Copyright 2018 Gillian Martlew, ND. May not be reproduced in any form whatsoever or copied or stored in an information retrieval system, or made available on a website without written permission of the author.

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