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An Intro into EDCs: What Exactly Are They?

Testosterone levels aren’t a topic a healthy 24 year old male usually ponders. In our early 20’s, we have surging testosterone levels and our top-of-the-world vitality correlates with those test findings. Once my friends began having problems with low energy or troubles with their wife conceiving in our 30’s, reproductive health began to creep more and more into my mind. 

At this point, we can track a yearly drop in testosterone since the 1970’s . Currently there is a yearly 1% decrease in testosterone meaning a 40 year old man in 2022 would have testosterone levels 15% lower than those of a 40 year old man in 2007. On the other side, when you look at miscarriages, there is a 1% increase yearly in the last 20 years. To me it doesn’t make sense that we constantly talk about our heart health and brain health but seem to avoid reproductive health. 

While the potential for culprits in this epidemic are wide, the ones that have caught my attention the most are environmental. According to Endocrine.org, Endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs), are “substances in the environment (air, soil, or water supply), food sources, personal care products, and manufactured products that interfere with the normal function of your body’s endocrine system.”

Quick physiology review: the endocrine system in a body serves as a massive messaging network where organs can communicate and regulate function. A “hormone” is the molecule that gets produced by one gland and circulates in the bloodstream to another gland or organ to alter the function. For example, the hypothalamus in the brain signals the pituitary gland to make another hormone that signals the testes to produce testosterone. A lot of steps to get right and many possibilities for the body to mess up. Crazy when you think that even something as subtle as smell can alter the endocrine system. A study was done that showed men get a boost in testosterone from smelling the scent of an ovulating woman. Wild. 

So now that we know this network is complex and sensitive, it makes sense that our own environmental exposures are making us weak and sick. Ultimately, there’s a ton of danger out there and you could drive yourself crazy changing every part of your life to limit endocrine disruption. Luckily there are a few basic adjustments you can do that can be significant not only for you but also your future children. I’ll cover a couple common ones and a couple lesser known ones.


Plastics

Plastic is rough on the endocrine system and it’s my #1 target of elimination. Plastics are known to lower testosterone, lower sperm quality, disrupt pregnancies, cause birth defects, and enhance cancer risks. The damn stuff is sneaky though. Your food gets wrapped in it, then you may eat your food with plastic, then store your left overs in it. It’s endless and everywhere. One of the worst scenarios with plastic is when heated. That’s when it gets leached into what you are consuming. Two easy steps to take in the consumption realm of plastics would be:

  1. Get a stainless steel reusable water bottle.

  2. Get rid of all plastic food storage containers and BAN all plastics from the microwave.

Not like you need another excuse to never eat fast food but with poor packaging, storing and delivery of fast food, each step gets more plastics exposure. Heck, even the plastic gloves the teenager is wearing making your food are putting trace plastics in your food. Looking back on my college days I am now horrified about my plastic choices. Lazy days throwing tupperware into the microwave to heat up some leftover pizza or leaving bottled water in my car in the Texas heat for days then sipping away at it like nothing was wrong.

A great resource for EDC elimination is https://chemtrust.org, a UK company with many tips on avoidance. 

Non-stick pans. 

Please upgrade your cookware. I’ve been a victim of these for many years of my adult life, they are easy to use and even more easy to clean up. However, the magic of non-stick isn’t so magical on your organs. PFOA or Teflon are harsh carcinogens and EDCs that coat these pans. Even worse when the pans are heated to high temperatures or when they start to flake off. There’s a bit of a trend here: high heats and unstable chemicals create the most havoc. I’ve switched almost exclusively to cast iron but stainless steel is also a safer choice. 

Shoes in the house

I would assume most people who have shoe-free households are looking for less dirt in their house. Those people are smart in their EDC elimination as well since shoes can track in heavy metals and pesticide residues. Think about it: you are walking through a park where they may have just sprayed pesticides or laid fertilizer. You come in the house with the same shoes on and that stuff is now tracking in your carpet where your kids play. Even a week or so after lawn treatment, weed killer can still be tracked into your house via shoes or even a pet’s feet. 

Dust 

Yes dust is not only gross because it contains mostly dead skin cells, but also a host of chemicals. A 2018 study found 166 different chemicals in household dust and another study in 2020 found high concentrations of micro-plastics in household dust across 12 different countries . Now I don’t feel that we need to become clean freaks suddenly but at least dusting some of these counters and TV stands more often can pay dividends. Ever since my 1 year old started crawling and walking, it woke me up to all the dust in corners and on floors. He seems to find all the most dusty areas, which is horrible because the effects on him may be greater than adults. 

Wild to think that even in your own house there can be a minefield of dangers especially to your kids. Their bodies are still developing plus they are small and they absorb more contaminants per pound of body weight. I think generally whenever you purchase a product, think twice about its EDC capability and check the label. Reference Detox Me from the Silent Spring Institute for many more tips for a safe household. 

As I look at my son playing and running around in my yard, I can’t help but think about his future and what I’m exposing him to that will harm his development. So, keep your eyes open and be diligent. Good luck out there gents.


References

  1. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32151259/

  2. https://www.semanticscholar.org/paper/Scent-of-a-Woman-Miller-Maner/71e4403da354af0acb03062f9bb65d543795c1db 

  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7239036/

  4. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S016041201931952X

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