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Endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs) are chemicals that mimic, block, or interfere with hormones in the body’s endocrine system. See this detailed report by the Endocrine Society for more information about EDCs: where they are found, human exposures, and growing concerns about their effects on the human body. For up-to-date information on the evolving science around EDCs, see the Endocrine Society’s website.
Because of the endocrine system’s critical role in so many important biological and physiological functions, impairments in any part of the endocrine system can lead to disease or even death. By interfering with the body’s endocrine systems, EDC exposure can therefore perturb many functions.
EDCs are a global and ubiquitous problem. Exposure occurs at home, in the office, on the farm, in the air we breathe, the food we eat, and the water we drink. Of the hundreds of thousands of manufactured chemicals, it is estimated that about 1000 may have endocrine-acting properties. Nearly 100% of humans have been found to have EDCs in their bodies.
Some common examples of EDCs include DDT and other pesticides; bisphenol A (BPA) and phthalates used in children’s products, personal care products and food containers; and flame retardants used in furniture and floor coverings. In addition to the known EDCs, there are countless suspected EDCs or chemicals that have never been tested.
Exposures to known EDCs are relatively high in contaminated environments in which industrial chemicals leach into soil and water; are taken up by microorganisms, algae, and plants; and move into the animal kingdom as animals eat the plants, and bigger animals eat the smaller animals. Animals at the top of the food chain, including humans, have the highest concentrations of such environmental chemicals in their tissues.