In short:

  • A new study says that plastic can be found in tap water all over the world
  • Plastic can damage hormonal health in humans
  • Endocrine disruptors can be found everywhere but women may be more exposed than men

 

Plastic is served

Last week, the world was in shock when scientists unveiled that plastic has polluted tap water all around the world. Once plastic pollutes water to such a great extent, it can go anywhere.

Sixth Degree reports that:

“The study took 159 drinking water samples from across the world.  Almost 83 percent of this tested positive for synthetic fibers. So far we believed, plastic was coming back to us through food. Now, water too is becoming carrier. (…) Many chemical additives that give plastic products desirable performance properties also have negative environmental and human health effects.”

These effects include endocrine disruption, which can lead to menstrual pain, menstrual disorders, cancers, birth defects, immune system suppression and developmental problems in children.

Plastic coffee cupsWhat is an endocrine disruptor?

An endocrine disruptor is “an exogenous agent that interferes with the synthesisreleasetransportmetabolismbindingactionor elimination of natural hormones in the body responsible for the maintenance of homeostasisreproductionregulation of developmental processes and/or behavior” [1]

In other words, an endocrine disruptor is a synthetic molecule that enters your body and can:

  • cause an increase in certain hormones
  • suppress the production of others
  • pose as hormones
  • mutate one hormone into another
  • interfere with the signals emitted by our hormones
  • compete for essential nutrients
  • bind and prevent the movement of hormones
  • accumulate like garbage in the organs that should produce or eliminate the hormone
  • they can even give a signal for premature cell death

 

The World Health Organisation stressed their life-threatening effects, massive use, and poor standards

The World Health Organisation published the State of the Science of Endocrine Disruptor Chemicals in 2012, stressing the life-threatening effects of these chemicals, which have been used in massive amounts without being properly tested for health and safety, for lack of good will or knowledge at the time of discovery.

Endocrine disruptors comprise more than 100.000 synthetic chemical compounds that belong to different classes.

How does plastic end in water? The answer is (also) in your plastic wardrobe

Plastic wasteEvery time we litter around, plastic breaks up in microscopic pieces and ends up in the soil, and from the soil, to water.

One major source of microplastics people are hardly ever aware of comes from clothes.

The vast majority of our clothes are made of plastic fabrics. Every time you wash your clothes, these microplastics end up in the water stream. Nylon, rayon, polyester, organza, faux leather and faux fur are just some examples of plastic fabrics for fashion.

That is why we propose that we buy less, but good natural fibers, real fur only if you live in very cold and windy climate (forget it as a fashion statement), and real leather. This is the only ecological solution. Buy less, buy natural.

Xenoestrogens are fake estrogens that create chaos and menstrual problems

A subset of the endocrine disruptors are known as environmental estrogens or xenoestrogens.

They confer estrogenic potential (“estrogenicity”) translated as affinity to the estrogen receptors (ER) (α or β), thus ability to activate expression of estrogen-dependent genes or stimulation of cell proliferation of ER-competent cells. [2]

In other words, xenoestrogens pose as estrogens but lack their beneficial effects, and create chaos in our reproductive system, increase cancer and a list of problems which would be too long, too scary and frankly, boring, to name.

As far as women’s health is concerned, xenoestrogens are responsible for many menstrual problems and disorders. They can create estrogen dominance, cause menstrual cramps, miscarriages, low progesterone, hypothyroidism, and more.

That is why it is very important to assess your exposure to endocrine disruptors and make a choice: this I need, this I can do without.

Xenoestrogens and endocrine disruptors are everywhere

Fancy tea bags are made of plastic

Yes, even the fancy teabags are plastic in a cup

Plastic is not the only carrier. Xenoestrogens are contained in pesticides, cosmetics and makeup, food cans, food containers made of plastics, personal care and house hygiene products. Among others.

Hormonal contraceptives too are endocrine disruptors since they suppress the brain-ovary cycle. The synthetic form of estrogen you find inside is a xenoestrogen. Yet, they are hardly ever considered as such.

Women are often more exposed than men. The cosmetic industry thrives on women, who start using at a very young age multiple creams, perfumes, make-up, hair conditioners, hair sprays, hair dyes. I was given my first make-up book aged eight by my feminist mother. My first anti-cellulite cream came aged 14.

Household chores are also disproportionately a woman-job. Conventional products for cleaning our homes are full of endocrine disruptors. The use of (plastic) gloves is one way to protect yourself. However, best of all would be to use harmless and effective products like soda, vinegar and others.

Let’s not forget conventional tampons and pads, which also contain large amounts of plastics. About four bags per pad. The alternative is the menstrual cup, as other hip products like period-proof underwear (think Thinx) is also manufactured with synthetic fabrics. “Ecological” tampons and pads still contain glue and a synthetic layer for absorption, and if the natural fiber they are made of is not organic, you are still exposing your skin to pesticides.

Any choice a woman may be legit, in terms of make-up, hygiene routine and contraception, but it is her right and responsibility to make an informed choice. What is an informed choice? It means to understand all options available, with their pros and cons, in terms of health safety, efficacy, cost, reliability and personal values.

These are some of the most common endocrine disruptors and where to find them
  • Bisphenol A (identifiable by the initials BPA or the symbol 7 imprinted in the plastic for recycling) – lining of cans, plastic food containers, mattresses, clothes, plastic bottles, fireproof fabrics.
  • BHA – food preservative.
  • Dioxin – industrial food and polluted air.
  • PCB – large fish, flame retardant fabrics.
  • Pesticides and herbicides – non-organic food and plant fibers.
  • Synthetic hormones – in contraceptives, meat and dairy products.
  • Anolamines (DEA, TEA, MEA) – soaps, lacquers, eyeliner, talcum powder, shaving foam.
  • Petrolatums – creams and lip gloss, etc.
  • Methyl, butyl, propyl, ethyl – balms, foundation, concealers, masks and face creams.
  • Sodium lauryl sulfate, sodium laryl ether sulfate – toothpaste, shampoo, bath salts, shower gel.
  • Parabens (methylparaben, ethylparaben, propylparaben and butylparaben) – products for face and body cosmetics.
  • Phthalates (DBP, DEHP) – in enamels, perfumes, lotions and deodorants, PVC.

 

“Now it is the time to know more, in order to fear less” Marie Curie

 

Bibliography

[1] Kavlock RJ, Daston GP, DeRosa C, Fenner-Crisp P, Gray LE, Kaattari S, Lucier G, Luster M, Mac MJ, Maczka C, Miller R, Moore J, Rolland R, Scott G, Sheehan DM, Sinks T, Tilson HA (1996) Research needs for the risk assessment of health and environmental effects of endocrine disruptors: a report of the USEPA-sponsored workshop. Environ Health Perspect 104(Suppl 4):715–740, Google Scholar

[2] Katzenellenbogen JA (1995) The structural pervasiveness of estrogenic activity. Environ Health Perspect 103(suppl 7):99–101