Hormone disrupting chemicals (also known as Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals, or EDCs) are chemicals that can interfere with the body’s sensitive hormone system. Our hormones (and that of wildlife) regulate bodily functions, such as metabolism, growth and reproductive development. The most minuscule levels of hormones can have great effect and so exposures to very low levels of EDCs can impact these important systems.
Humans are exposed to EDCs via consumer products, such as flame retardants in soft furnishings, plastics in food packaging, and fluorinated chemicals (PFAS) in cosmetics. Exposure to EDCs has been linked to reproductive issues, obesity, and hormone related cancers. There are also concerns about the potential for effects on brain function and cognitive development, as thyroid hormones play a crucial role in orchestrating the development of the brain.
This FAQ aims to answer many of the questions people have about these chemicals; the questions are divided into three groups. It’s also available as a pdf here.
You can also get the latest news on EDCs from our blog.
General questions about Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals (EDCs)
- What are EDCs?
- Is endocrine disruption a new issue?
- What sort of chemicals are EDCs, what are they used for?
- Why is there concern about EDCs?
- What’s so special about EDCs?
- Can man-made EDCs have any serious impact on health given that our bodies are used to dealing with naturally occurring phytoestrogens from food?
- If EDCs are so dangerous then why haven’t they been banned? Surely all chemicals in products have been tested to show they are safe?
- Industry claims chocolate could be banned as well, is it true?
- As people live much longer nowadays what is the evidence of the damaging effects due to EDCs?
- Aren’t the increased trends in chronic diseases all down to our lifestyle or do EDCs play a role?
- Is the cocktail effect only a hypothesis?
- How does CHEM Trust engage in the current EU debate on EDCs?
Regulation of EDCs
- What is happening at European Union (EU) level on EDCs?
- Have any EDCs been banned in the EU?
- Why are extra measures needed, when current tests and regulations will address any real toxic effects due to EDCs?
- Do EDCs have thresholds and can safe exposure values be identified?
- Is the precautionary principle unscientific?
- Are there any benefits from stricter controls for EDCs?
- What should future risk management for EDCs in the EU look like?
More technical questions & answers on EDCs
- Should a potency cut-off be included in the criteria for identification of EDCs?
- Are the effects of EDCs seen in the laboratory reversible?
- What effects are adverse?
- Aren’t pharmaceuticals with EDC properties the main cause of environmental impacts, rather than industrial chemicals from consumer products?
- Is it a problem that some pharmaceuticals have EDC properties?
- What definition should be used for identifying EDCs?
This FAQ has been linked to by BBC online.
We’ve tried to cover a wide range of possible questions in this briefing, but if you have any more then get in touch with us on twitter on @chemtrust or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org
CHEM Trust would like to thank the Garfield Weston Foundation for their support to CHEM Trust, which helped fund the writing of this briefing.