What is an endocrine disruptor? An endocrine disruptor is a synthetic or natural chemical substance in the environment that alters the action of our hormone-producing organs. According to the WHO, endocrine disruptors have "a deleterious effect on the health of an individual, their offspring or subpopulations".
While your baby is still warm in your belly, he or she is still exposed to pollutants. Protecting your health by limiting your exposure to endocrine disruptors during pregnancy also protects the health of your unborn child.
Unfortunately, endocrine disruptors are a large and unfortunate part of our daily lives.
In this article, you will find all the answers to your questions on this subject: How do they act? What are their effects on humans? At what stage of life are they most dangerous? How to protect yourself from them? Where do they hide?
Drs Pfister and Souvet of the ASEF (Association Santé Environnement France) provide explanations and advice on endocrine disruptors.
What are the health effects of endocrine disruptors?
Endocrine disruptors are chemicals that can interfere with the body's hormonal system, which can have adverse health consequences.
- mimicking the action of a hormone by substituting for it
- preventing the action of a hormone
- altering the natural production, transport, elimination or regulation of a hormone or its receptor.
They can therefore disrupt the proper balance of the endocrine system. It is therefore essential to limit our exposure to endocrine disruptors.
Potential long-term effects include chronic diseases such as diabetes and thyroid problems. They can also cause fertility and reproductive disorders.
Some endocrine disruptors prevent the action of iodine and the production of those hormones that ensure the proper development of the child's brain.
These endocrine disruptors act on the oestrogen hormones but also on the tyroid. Thyroid hormones are essential for the development of the foetus' brain. This period of pregnancy is extremely crucial since the mother-to-be must have a good iodine status.
When are they most dangerous?
Endocrine disruptors can be particularly dangerous during periods of particular vulnerability, such as foetal life. Unfortunately, the placenta is not an impermeable barrier. Indeed, endocrine disruptors are absorbed by the mother and transferred to the foetus. This period of vulnerability extends into adolescence. During these periods, hormonal systems are building and developing, and disruptions can have lasting health consequences. For example, exposure to endocrine disruptors during foetal life can lead to chronic diseases later in life. Children may also be more vulnerable as a result: this is called developmental origin of diseases (delayed effect following exposure to EPs).
It is important to know that it is during pregnancy that the future health of the child, adolescent and adult is shaped!
Where are endocrine disruptors hiding?
Exposure to endocrine disruptors can occur through inhalation, ingestion, skin passage or via the placenta. They are even more harmful if they are mixed together, known as the "cocktail effect".
Endocrine disruptors can be hidden in a variety of everyday consumer products:
- Food film
- Tin cans
- Beverage cans
- Plastic bottles
- Contact lenses
- Yoghurt pots
- Kitchen utensils
- Waterproof textiles
- Toilet wipes
- Plastic toys
- Cleaning products
How to protect yourself from endocrine disruptors?
It is difficult to protect oneself completely from endocrine disruptors, as they are present in many everyday products (clothing, toys, furniture, cosmetics, hygiene products, household products...). However, there are some steps you can take to reduce your exposure to endocrine disruptors.
Here are our recommendations for limiting your exposure to endocrine disruptors during pregnancy :
- Stop smoking (active and passive) and start weaning yourself off alcohol and drugs
- Choose organic cosmetics: 40% of beauty products contain endocrine disruptors! Nail polish is the product that contains the most. Choose certified organic cosmetics and personal care products free of parabens, phthalates, triclosan and other chemical substances suspected of being endocrine disruptors. During pregnancy, also avoid (de)colouring. To pamper your body during pregnancy, the use of endocrine disruptor-free stretch mark products on your belly is essential.
- Limit your contact with cleaning products: Prefer natural cleaning products with labels (Ecolabel and Ecocert) or use white vinegar, black soap or bicarbonate of soda to clean your home. Indeed, by choosing natural materials, you limit indoor air pollution.
- Limit the use of plastics: Avoid plastics that may contain Bisphenol A (BPA) and choose glass, stainless steel or ceramic products for food and drink instead. When reheating food in the microwave, avoid plastic holders.
- Eat healthy food: Choose organic food (AB label and the European Organic Farming label) and avoid food packaged in plastic materials, especially baby food and children's snacks. For fish, choose small fish rather than large fish. Avoid feeding yourself exclusively with industrial dishes that are rich in preservatives and colourings.
- Avoid pesticides: Limit exposure to pesticides by choosing organic produce and avoiding areas treated with pesticides. If you cannot wash your fruit and vegetables, peel them before eating them.
- Air your home daily: it is essential to air your home for at least 10 minutes a day, morning and evening, in order to avoid the stagnation of pollutants in the air.
- Wash new clothes and toys and air out new furniture: favour second-hand clothes or organic cotton, second-hand furniture or raw solid wood. Second-hand objects (furniture, toys, etc.) will have had more time to clean up.
- Choose paints without volatile organic compounds (VOCs): paints contain many chemical substances that pollute indoor air. Prepare your baby's room well in advance of his or her arrival and if you are pregnant, let your partner take care of this task to limit your exposure.
This advice applies not only during pregnancy but also throughout your life to protect your health.
Although these measures do not guarantee complete protection, they can help reduce exposure to endocrine disruptors during pregnancy and improve overall health. There are also applications that can help you look at the composition of your food and cosmetic products.
In addition, good practices are necessary during pregnancy with the advice of your health care professional. Indeed, he or she may recommend that you take various treatments: folic acid (vitamin B9), iodine (essential for the development of the foetal brain), selenium (a trace element), or establish a diet rich in fibre and chlorophyll (legumes, green leafy vegetables, fruits rich in pectin, etc.).
Laboratoires Téane: organic products without endocrine disruptors*
Some ingredients used in cosmetic products may be endocrine disruptors. It is recommended to read the INCI (International Nomenclature of Cosmetic Ingredients) lists of cosmetic products. But also, favour products with an organic certification and without potentially dangerous substances, especially during the pregnancy period, (triclosan, parabens, phthalates, bisphenols, toluene, titanium dioxide, essential oils (EO)...)
At Téane Laboratories, our pregnancy products for babies are made in France, certified organic and the formulas contain between 98% and 100% ingredients of natural origin. Téane offers two expert ranges offering effective and scientifically proven solutions to two skin problems linked to motherhood and early childhood: stretch marks and dry skin with a tendency to atopic eczema in babies and children.
You can then use our endocrine disruptor-free pregnancy products with complete peace of mind during your pregnancy and breastfeeding.
Did you like this article? Maybe you will like this one as well: Allergens in organic baby cosmetics.
* Laboratoires Téane products do not contain any potential or proven endocrine disruptors identified to date.
Bibliography and additional sources
ASEF. Short guides and mini guides. Available online (ASEF).
Live exchange between Dr. Pierre Souvet, President of the Association Santé Environnement France and Agnès Ducrocq (founder of Laboratoires Téane) on the subject of endocrine disruptors: consult the live
"How to protect yourself from chemical contamination and endocrine disruptors on a daily basis" URPS ML PACA and ASEF, 2020.
Profession, midwife "Menorrhagia, what's new? Number 287: December 2022-January 2023
ANSES. Work and involvement of the Anses on endocrine disruptors. Available on line.
INSERM. Contaminants in food: to which cocktails are pregnant women exposed? Published on 22.01.2018. Available on line.