Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals

by Mark Whalen


In my Acupuncture clinic I meet with patients who are struggling with many hormonal issues.  This ranges from infertility, menopause, poor ovulation, menstrual headaches, difficulty losing weight and mood disorders.

In meeting with patients I always try to discuss the role of a healthy diet in their condition.  One area that we can all pay more attention to is our level of chemical exposure on a daily basis.  Evidence is continuing to mount that exposure to chemicals in our environment, food and water supply, and personal care products­­­­­ are having negative effects on our health.  These chemicals have been classified as Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals.

Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals (EDC’s) are defined as: compounds, either natural or synthetic, which through environmental or inappropriate developmental exposures alters the hormonal and homeostatic systems that enable the organism to communicate with and respond to its environment”. According to the International Programme on Chemical Safety, endocrine disruptors cause “adverse health effects at the level of an organism or it’s progency.2

In short, they mess us up.   EDC’s impact our hormonal environment, not only affecting our health, but potentially the health of our offspring.

The Endocrine System



The Endocrine system is comprised of glands that produce and secrete hormones.  Hormones act as a messenger system throughout the body and they function on feedback mechanisms.  Problems in this feedback system, due to excess or deficient levels of circulating hormones, or due to signaling problems, leads to disruptions in our health.

The endocrine glands are responsible for growth, metabolism, sexual development/ and function, body temperature, immune system functions, stress response, sleep-wake cycles and many other key functions.

The Endocrine System is “kind of a big deal”.  The healthier our endocrine systems are functioning, the healthier we are. Yet everyday, we all do things to put our health at risk, and we may not even be aware of it.

Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals (EDC’s)

How bad are EDC’s for our health?  Here is the scientific statement from The Endocrine Society:

The evidence for adverse reproductive outcomes (infertility, cancers, malformations) from exposure to endocrine disrupting chemicals is strong, and there is mounting evidence for effects on other endocrine systems, including thyroid, neuroendocrine , obesity and metabolism, and insulin and glucose homeostasis.” 4

Simply put, EDC’s are suspects in infertility, obesity, and neurodegenerative conditions such as Parkinson’s disease and the development of ADHD in children5.

Biggest Offenders

There are too many categories of chemicals to name here, but the most prevalent forms of EDC’s are discussed below.

1. Dioxins accumulate up the food chain.  90% of human exposure is from the consumption of animal and dairy fats6.

2. BPA –(Bisphenol A) is used in polycarbonate plastics and epoxy resins.  We are exposed to it through many sources including pizza boxes, plastic bottles, baby bottles and cups, aluminum cans.

3. Phthalates are used to make plastic flexible.  They are found in vinyl flooring, vinly shower curtains, children’s toys and many personal care products such as cosmetics, perfumes, nail polish, and lotions7.   Phthalates do not accumulate in our system but we are constantly re-exposed so it is a continuous presence.

4. Pesticides, Herbicides and Insecticides sprayed on crops and used around our homes offer significant exposure risk.

5. Polychlorinated Biphenyl (PCB’s) were manufactured up until 1979 when they were banned.  PCB’s found their way into the environment during their production and from disposal sites.  Today, the greatest exposure risk comes from eating contaminated fish.   It’s better to eat wild caught fish over farm raised.


What can you do?

Unfortunately, some exposure to these chemicals is unavoidable.  It’s not quite time to give up and live in a bubble.  There are steps we can take to protect ourselves.

Eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables- organic if you can.  If you are not buying organic, wash your fruits and vegetables before consumption, even if you do not plan on eating the skin.

Avoid Genetically Modified Foods.  Reduce/eliminate canned food consumption.

Eat lean cuts of meat and minimize fatty cuts of meat.

Eat wild caught fish.  Remove the skin before cooking and don’t fry the fish. Frying seals in the toxins.  If you fish, pay attention to local water advisories

Exercise- stay active.  Exercise improves the immune systems ability to fight off disease.

Stay hydrated.  Water is key to helping the body process and detoxify.  Use a BPA free bottle whenever possible.

Store food in glass containers instead of plastic and NEVER heat foods in plastic in a microwave. This includes putting plastic wrap over the food.

Check the ingredients of your personal care products. Look for products that are free of parabens.  This includes soaps, lotions, shampoos, cosmetics etc.

Get Acupuncture.  Acupuncture can help improve the immune system, assist in the body’s detoxification and improve hormonal function.



1- http://www.endosociety.org/journals/scientificstatements/upload/edc_scientific_statement.pdf)
2- Issues in Environmental Science and Technology.  Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals .  Royal Society of Chemistry.  October 1999
3. photo from Medicinenet, Inc.
4. http://www.endosociety.org/journals/scientificstatements/upload/edc_scientific_statement.pdf)
 5- Psychology Today.  September 2012.  Stealth Attack
6-World Health Organization.  Dioxins and their effect on Human Health.  Fact Sheet 225 May 2010
7. http://pollutioninpeople.org/toxics/phthalates

Mark Whalen is a Licensed Acupuncturist and Board Certified Herbalist and the founder of Five Points Acupuncture & Wellness in Reading, MA.

Mark Whalen – who has written posts on Acupuncture Reading MA - Five Points Acupuncture & Wellness.


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Five Points Acupuncture & Wellness
20 Pondmeadow Dr #107, Reading, MA 01867
Phone: (781) 944-3000


Serving Reading, North Reading, Wakefield, Burlington and the surrounding Middlesex County, MA areas.

Zip Codes: 01730, 01810, 01867, 01880, 01821, 01803, 01864, 01876,
01887, 01915, 01923, 01940, 01949, 01960