Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals

What are they?

Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals (EDCs) are chemicals which mimic natural hormones. There are a variety of natural and anthropogenic chemicals that can produce adverse effects by disrupting the body’s endocrine (hormone) system, they are referred to as endocrine disruptors (EDs) or EDCs. The endocrine system regulates important biological functions in humans and animals such as metabolism, development, reproduction and behaviour. Negative impacts on human health include cancers, reduced reproductive functions and brain dysfunctions. EDCs also harm wildlife, causing reproductive abnormalities, birth defects and declining populations.

EDCs are often man-made. They can be found in plastics, clothes, cosmetics, and many more products. These chemicals are widespread in the environment. We are potentially exposed to EDCs through the air, our food, water, and through our skin. Some are even transferred from mother to baby. Total avoidance of these chemicals is not practical in modern life, but actions must be taken to reduce their availability and better protect people, animals and the environment.

What is the EU doing about EDCs?

EDCs are of increasing importance in chemical regulations in the European Union and criteria to identify them have recently been presented for two pieces of EU legislation (Biocidal Product Regulation[1] and Plant Protection Products Regulation)[2]. In the EU, the legislation regulating chemical substances often includes their screening and testing according to the EU test methods regulation[3], which predominantly contains test methods developed under the OECD[4]. The current testing tools, including regulatory in vivo tests and novel in vitro assays, do not appropriately identify effects related to certain less studied endocrine-mediated pathways or health outcomes, in which EDCs may be implicated. Moreover, the new EDC criteria require information about both the adverse effects and the endocrine mode of action.

The EURION Cluster aims to address these knowledge gaps, benefiting both human health and the environment.

What can I do to reduce exposure to EDCs?

Some suggestions you can do yourself to reduce exposure to EDCs:

  • Don’t smoke;
  • Minimize unnecessary use of plastics, in particular try to avoid plastic food packaging;
  • Wash new clothes before you wear them;
  • Reduce the use of cosmetics and personal care products and in the future, once they become available use products certified as EDC free;
  • Do not heat food in plastic containers in the microwave;
  • Avoid use of pesticides and air fresheners;
  • Eat organic food when it’s available and affordable;
  • Use old-fashioned cleaners like vinegar and baking soda;
  • Ventilate your home, keep rooms well aired, vacuum and clean regularly to remove chemicals that can be found indoors.

If you have health issues, always contact your healthcare provider.