This is a research report by Twoodie.
- It contains no hyperbole.
- It is evidence based.
- It is concise and written in plain English.
We went through all 29 Pages of the WORLD HEALTH ORGANISATION and UNITED NATIONS report on Endocrine Disruptors. We then assimilated these facts, combined with highlights from the latest research, expert viewpoints and verified sources, into an executive summary.
At Twoodie our job is not to be academics or scientists. It's to research and innovate across the entire supply chain to ensure that we provide practical product solutions to keep your family safe and healthy. We try and to do so in a way that is refined and attractive. We're not hippies or activists... we're just designers, with common sense.
Together we’ve done the hard (and tedious) work for you. We reveal to the world our progress/thought process (through transparent operations) so you can feel confident in trusting our judgement.
We stand firmly behind the findings below. They are the TRUTH according to the information we have available as of 6 April 2017. As new studies and information comes to light we will update our advice to reflect this and welcome your feedback and input.
WHAT ARE Endocrine Disruptors?
Endocrine disruptors are a class of hazardous chemical commonly found in PLASTICS but also cosmetics, furniture, pesticides and other products. They are anthropogenic (man-made) chemicals.
Endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) are defined by the World Health Organization as “chemicals that interfere with normal hormone action”. These chemicals affect or ‘disrupt’ the endocrine system, which produces hormones that regulate metabolism, growth, tissue and sexual function in our bodies.
Endocrine disrupters target two essential functions of human anatomy:
- The formation, development and growth of organs
Hormone receptors (produced by our bodies) naturally regulate these activities but endocrine disruptors interfere with hormone action.
The effects of Endocrine Disruptors depend on both the level and timing of exposure. There is a specific window of exposure deemed ‘sensitive periods for endocrine disruptor action’ by the World Health Organization, when humans are most susceptible to the adverse effects of EDCs, which is during development (in utero, infancy and early childhood in humans). This is significant because in adults, when the hormone or EDC is isolated or removed, the effect subsides, but the adverse effects of endocrine disruption are permanent and irreversible on developing tissue. It follows that exposure to EDCs is especially dangerous for pregnant women and growing children.
WHERE do they come from?
Endocrine disruptors derive from man-made chemicals. There are an increasing amount of EDCs formed as a by-product of manufacturing or combustion of waste. Examples of such chemicals include current-use pesticides, solvents, paints and pharmaceutical or food additives. EDCs may be released from the products that contain them. Once in the environment, they can be carried by air or water. EDCs are prevalent in everyday items ranging from cosmetics to plastic containers and even food.
People in contact with these substances risk exposure to endocrine disruptors. Humans take up EDCs by ingestion, inhalation and through contact with our skin. Infants and children are also more likely to be exposed to EDCs because of their hand-to-mouth activities.
ARE ENDOCRINE DISRUPTORS REAL? Or are we just being paranoid about EDCs?
What credible sources validate the existence of Endocrine Disruptors?
Demonstrating a clear link between endocrine effects in individuals and populations will always be challenging because of the difficulty in isolating the effects of chemicals from the effects of other stressors and ecological factors. Furthermore scientific and medical research into EDCs is a relatively recent occurrence. Studies and trials need to be undertaken over many decades (with adequate placebo and other methodological tools) to provide further supportive data.
What has been discovered to date is detailed below and can be summarised as the following:
It is undeniable and unanimous amongst researchers and laboratory studies that chemical exposures contribute to endocrine disorders in humans and wildlife and are a definite source of concern.
To quote the WHO:
“We live in a world in which man‐made chemicals have become a part of everyday life. Some of these chemical pollutants can affect the endocrine (hormonal) system and interfere with important developmental processes in humans and wildlife.
There is emerging evidence for adverse reproductive outcomes (infertility, cancers, malformations) from exposure to EDCs, and there is also mounting evidence for effects of these chemicals on thyroid function, brain function, obesity and metabolism, and insulin and glucose homeostasis.
Global rates of endocrine-related cancers (breast, endometrial, ovarian, prostate, testicular and thyroid) have been increasing over the past 40–50 years.”
HISTORY of Evidence
What scientific proof is there for endocrine disruptors?
In 2002, the International Programme on Chemical Safety (IPCS) conducted research specific to EDCs, and published the “Global Assessment of the State-of-the-Science of Endocrine Disruptors” report.
IPCS is a joint programme of the World Health Organization, United Nations Environmental Programme and the International Labour Organization. It concluded that while results indicated adverse effects of EDCs in wildlife, more research had to be done to examine specific threats to the human body.
Following this publication, international authorities such as the Endocrine Society, European Commission and the European Environment Agency gathered evidence which showed that there was emerging evidence that EDCs indeed have negative effects on the human body regarding reproductive functions.
In 2011 The European Society for Paediatric Endocrinology and the US Paediatric Endocrine Society put forward a consensus statement calling for action regarding endocrine disruptors and their effects.
A year later the most comprehensive report to date was published via a collaboration between the World Health Organization and the United Nations Environment Programme.
This paper, ‘State of the Science of Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals 2012: Summary for Decision Makers’, compiled the findings of international scientific experts and their research and was led by Professor Åke Bergman, of Stockholm University. The members of his team included doctors, academics, scientists and various heads of departments within the World Health Organization. The research was funded by governments (not industry) so we can assume it was not conflicted.
The findings in this seminal report have been referenced by credible journalists and researchers from Environmental Health Perspectives and the Economist, with the main aim of educating the general public on the sources and the dangers of endocrine disruptors. To quote Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times “The chemical industry - by spending $100,000 on lobbying per member of Congress - buys its way out of effective regulation of endocrine disruptors. The industry’s deceit marks a replay of Big Tobacco’s battle against regulation of smoking”.
The BAD news
The most alarming fact regarding Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals is that the research performed to date appears to be only the tip of the iceberg. So while hundreds of chemicals that are currently used in different industries are already known to have endocrine disrupting effects, there are thousands of potentially similar chemicals, especially in consumer products, that have not yet been tested.
Close to 800 chemicals are known or suspected to be Endocrine Disruptors, but only a small fraction of these chemicals have been investigated in tests capable of identifying endocrine effects. The vast majority of chemicals in current commercial use have not been tested at all.
Furthermore the testing process, although in theory strict, only tests specific dosages of EDCs to determine the levels safe for humans and wildlife. The concern is that whilst humans have low dosage exposures to individually safe EDCs, these chemicals could collectively reach a harmful level. The toxicity of such environmental circumstances have not yet been determined and assessed.
The consequences of exposure to EDCs on human health are severe. Endocrine disruption leads to a magnitude of health problems. In adults, close contact to EDCs have been linked to obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, metabolic syndromes, reproductive issues as well as more fatally, increasing rates of testicular and breast cancer.
As previously mentioned, exposure to EDCs during the specific ‘sensitive periods’ of development will lead to long-term and more permanent health impacts such as increased occurrences of reproductive diseases, endocrine-related cancers, behavioural and learning problems.
HOW TO AVOID Endocrine Disruptors?
In reality, simply testing for EDCs is not sufficient. Bisphenol-A (BPA), a common and dangerous endocrine disruptor that is present in a range of consumer goods such as food packaging, plastic bottles and baby teethers, was not banned by the Food and Drug Administration despite strong objections from the Endocrine Society and toxicologists. While we wait for official measures to step in, endocrine disruption can be avoided or minimized with conscious changes in daily lifestyle.
- Not storing food or beverages in polycarbonate containers and instead choosing to use glassware
- Choosing furniture or toys of natural materials such as wood and glass
- Consuming organic food
- Avoiding pesticides
- Washing hands after dealing with chemicals
- Making informed choices when purchasing cosmetics or fragrances
With regards to woods (our passion at Twoodie) chemical preservatives, paints, finishes and other unnatural additives should obviously be avoided.
Special attention should be paid to infants and children and products that they come into close contact with such as toys, teethers and plastic cutlery and containers. Especially in the case of teethers, while the ones most commonly sold in the United States were labelled as BPA-free or nontoxic, BPA or replacement chemicals were found in them.
THE TWOODIE WAY
The effects of endocrine disruptors on our health are potentially catastrophic. They include cancerous tumours, birth defects, and other developmental disorders. For this reason we will adopt a “better safe than sorry” approach to the products we use and will pay special attention to those that surround children.
The science is debated, but only as much as that of climate change. Regardless of one’s faith in man's ability to change the climate we can all agree that living a more sustainable lifestyle is a good thing. This is also our approach at Twoodie. You don’t need to wait to have more conclusive proof of the existence and impact of Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals to make purchasing decisions that are natural, healthy, beautiful and of lasting quality. Our job is to make this easy for you.
World Health Organization. (2012). State of the Science of Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals. United Nations Environment Programme. Geneva: WHO Library Cataloguing-in-Publication Data.
Harrison, P. T. (2001). Endocrine Disrupters And Human Health: Current Research Will Establish Baseline Indices. BMJ: British Medical Journal , 323, 1317-1318.
Ashby, J. e. (1997). The Challenge Posed by Endocrine-Disrupting Chemicals. Environmental Health Perspectives , 5 (2), 164-169.
International Programme on Chemical Safety. (2002). Global assessment of the state-of-the-science of endocrine disruptors. World Health Organization. Geneva: IPCS.
Skakkebaek NE, e. a. (2011). The exposure of fetuses and children to endocrine disrupting chemicals: a European Society for Paediatric Endocrinology (ESPE) and Pediatric Endocrine Society (PES) call to action statement. Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism , 96 (10), 3056-3058.
Agency, E. E. (2012). The impacts of endocrine disruptors on wildlife, people and their environments - The Weybridge +15(1996-2011) report. European Environment Agency, Copenhagan, Denmark.
Kortenkamp A, e. a. (2011). State of the art assessment of endocrine disrupters. Final report. Directorate-General for the Environment. European Commission.
Kabat, G. C. (2017). Hormonal Confusion: The Contested Science of Endocrine Disruption. In Getting Risk Right: Understanding the Science of Elusive Health Risks (pp. 85-115). Columbia University Press.
Kristof, N. (2009, 06 27). It's Time to Learn From Frogs. Retrieved 03 29, 2017, from The New York Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/06/28/opinion/28kristof.html
Kristof, N. (2012, May 2). How Chemicals Affect Us. Retrieved March 29, 2017, from The New York Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/05/03/opinion/kristof-how-chemicals-change-us.html
Tech.view. (2008, Aug 22). Hazard in a Bottle. Retrieved March 29, 2017, from The Economist:http://www.economist.com/node/11991291
Honest Blogs. (2016, Jan 26). What are Phthalates? Retrieved March 29, 2017, from The Honest Company : https://blog.honest.com/phthalates/#
Amarelo, M., & Lunder, S. (2016, Dec 9). Teethers Expose Babies To BPA and Other Endocrine Disruptors. Retrieved March 29, 2017, from Healthy Child Healthy World: http://www.healthychild.org/teethers-expose-babies-to-bpa-and-other-endocrine-disruptors/