Among the chemicals suspected of being endocrine disruptors, bisphenol A (BPA)
and phthalates (key ingredients in plastics) are probably the best studied and the
research is indicative that they can disrupt the developing endocrine system. BPA
is widely used globally; some 6 billion pounds are produced each year. BPA is used
to harden polycarbonate plastics and make the epoxy resin used in the lining of food
and beverage containers. Polycarbonates can sometimes be identified in plastics by
the resin identification code or recycling number 7.

BPA is a useful and pervasive industrial chemical, but it is also a synthetic estrogen.
When heated, worn, or washed, plastics containing BPA can erode or break down,
allowing the chemical to leach into food and water and enter the human body. The
CDC has found BPA in the urine of 93% of surveyed Americans over the age of
6. Unlike many other chemicals we are exposed to, BPA is readily excreted, so if
ingestion of BPA stops, the body eliminates it quickly.

The scientific consensus has been moving away from the idea that BPA is completely
safe. Animal studies link low-level fetal BPA exposure to a broad spectrum
of developmental and reproductive effects, including breast cancer, early-onset puberty,
male genital defects, decreased testosterone levels, reduced sperm counts,
and neurobehavioral problems. In 2008, Canada deemed infant exposure to BPA
potentially unsafe. It banned the sale of baby bottles that use the chemical—a step
later taken by several U.S. states and major retailers, including Wal-Mart. Although
European regulators declared BPA safe in a 2008 assessment, Denmark has enacted
a ban on BPA in baby bottles. In 2009, the International Endocrine Society released
a statement declaring that endocrine disrupters were a significant concern for public
health and called for regulation to reduce human exposure.

Although the FDA has reviewed the chemical and ruled it safe, the decision has
been criticized for relying almost exclusively on industry-funded studies. The FDA
is continuing to study the safety of BPA, and in 2012 and 2013, the FDA amended
the food additive regulations to no longer provide for the use of BPA-based epoxy
resins as coatings in baby bottles, sippy cups, and infant formula packaging. The
FDA stated that the actions were based solely on a determination of abandonment of
those uses and was not related to the safety of BPA. In 2018 the FDA continued to
support the safety of BPA for “currently authorized uses.” However, the Endocrine
Society and other scientists who study the health effects of BPA are concerned about
the numerous studies linking BPA and adverse health outcomes relating to reproduction,
behavior, and metabolic disease. One action anyone can take to minimize
BPA exposure is to use BPA free water bottles.

Phthalates are a widely-used class of industrial chemicals that may affect the endocrine
system. They are found in polyvinyl chloride plastics and many consumer
products, including nail polish, hair spray, deodorant, and shampoo. Imported
cosmetics may be particularly suspect in that FDA testing has found that about
15% of those it tests are contaminated or contain dangerous ingredients. There is a
trend toward the use of non-phthalate plasticizers in products such as nail polish.

Products that are labeled “3-Free” means they do not contain DnBP (an endocrine
disrupter), toluene, or formaldehyde. A label that says 5-Free or 10-Free does not
guarantee they are safer because the ingredients that are omitted from the polish
may be non-toxic. It is not known what level of exposure to nail polish may be a
health risk, but many nail polishes still contain triphenyl phosphate (THPH), also a
known endocrine disrupter, and choosing products with “free” labeling is a reasonable

The male children of women who have been exposed to phthalates in pregnancy
may suffer from abnormal genital development. In animal studies, phthalates have
been shown to disrupt hormones and are linked to reduced sperm counts and other
signs of feminization in male rodents. Similar effects are caused by a class of long-lived
chemical fire retardants known as polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs)
used in electronics, polyurethane foam and other plastics. These chemicals can leak
out of polyurethane cushions in car seats or changing table pads and can be inhaled
or absorbed through a baby’s skin. Although they are being phased out, unlike BPA
and phthalates that are excreted within a few days, PBDEs can remain in the body
for years.

Higher levels of phthalates and other endocrine disrupters have been linked to earlier
breast development in girls and male genital abnormalities like undescended
testicles and smaller penises. However, the science around endocrine disrupters is
not settled, and some peer-reviewed studies fail to show a link between endocrine
disrupters and health effects. Human exposure to BPA and phthalates is still well
below safety levels set by most governments, and most health agencies around the
world say the chemicals are safe for humans, but the precautionary principle suggests
that choosing products that minimize exposure, especially for pregnant women,
infants and children is a good idea.

This blog presents opinions and ideas and is intended to provide helpful general information. I am not engaged in rendering advice or services to the individual reader. The ideas, procedures and suggestions in that are presented are not in any way a substitute for the advice and care of the reader’s own physician or other medical professional based on the reader’s own individual conditions, symptoms or concerns. If the reader needs personal medical, health, dietary, exercise or other assistance or advice the reader should consult a physician and/or other qualified health professionals. The author specifically disclaims all responsibility for any injury, damage or loss that the reader may incur as a direct or indirect consequence of following any directions or suggestions given in this blog or participating in any programs described in this blog or in the book, The Building Blocks of Health––How to Optimize Your Health with a Lifestyle Checklist (available in print or downloaded at Amazon, Apple, Barnes and Noble and elsewhere). Copyright 2021 by J. Joseph Speidel.