he Hazards of Environmental Estrogens



What do nail polish, tampons, plastic wrap and spermicides have in common?  They contain man-made chemicals, referred to as xenoestrogens that mimic the female hormone estrogen.  Xenoestrogens are fat soluble and very slow to break down in the environment and over time they accumulate in body fat.


Natural estrogens play an essential role in fertility, pregnancy, and lactation.  Excess estrogens, or estrogen dominance, can cause infertility in both sexes, as well as birth defects, abnormal sexual development, immune system disorders and cancer.


Impaired liver function could result in abnormally high levels of estrogen. Synthetic chemicals interfere with normal liver function, thereby disrupting the body’s healthy balance of hormones.


No Applause for Plastic


It is estimated that some 100,000 synthetic chemicals are registered for commercial use in the world today and 1,000 new ones are formulated every year.  While many are toxic and carcinogenic, little is known about the long-term effects of the majority of them. 


Products such as plastic bottles, plastic wrap, Styrofoam, deodorants, many cosmetics and sunscreens, and even spermicides either contain or break down to create xenoestrogens.  Environmental estrogens are often byproducts of industrial waste and chlorine bleaching of paper products such as toilet paper and feminine hygiene products.


The Impact


Since the turn of the 20th century, manufacture and use of synthetic chemicals has rapidly increased, and so has our exposure to them.  The disruption of estrogen balance in the human body leads to a variety of health problems including:




Heavy menstrual flow

Gynecomastia (increase in male breast tissue)


Increase in lower body fat

Ovarian cysts

Increase in infertility

Fibrocystic breasts

Decrease in penis size

Weight gain

Weight gain

Poor thyroid function

Poor thyroid function

Increase in breast cancer

Increase in breast cancer

Increase in uterine/ovarian cancers

Increase in prostate cancer


Hair loss

Decreased fertility

Migraine headaches

Hair loss

Poor liver function

Migraine headaches

Malformation of testicles

Abnormal pap smears


Poor liver function


Early sexual development



Declining Sperm Counts


Many scientists believe that xenoestrogens are responsible for decreased sperm production and testicular malformation in newborns.  A 1991 study reported by Danish endocrinologist Niels Skakkebaek and Richard Sharpe, of the British Medical Research Council in Scotland, shows that since 1938, sperm counts of men in 21 countries have plunged by an average of 50 percent.  They also found that testicular cancer had tripled. It is suspected the cause is from fetuses and newborn’s exposure to estrogen-like chemicals in mother’s blood and breastmilk.  Furthermore, observers in England have noted increased incidences of undescended testes, resulting in permanent sterility, if left untreated.


Hysterectomy Rates Rising in Canada


The most common reasons for hysterectomy are endometriosis and uterine fibroids (non-cancerous tumours of the uterus), which can cause heavy, painful periods.  Less than 10% of hysterectomies are medically necessary.  A 1993 study showed that rhesus monkeys developed endometriosis after being fed food that contained dioxin, a xenoestrogen, over a four-year period. A fact worth noting is that 70 years ago, when the environment was free of estrogenic pollutants, there were only 21 reported cases of endometriosis in North America, versus 5.5 million today.  Scientists are beginning to understand that estrogen dominance is the cause. 


See You Later Alligator


Lake Apopka in Florida was once home to thousands of alligators in the 80’s.  In 1994 it was noted the alligator population had declined to just over one hundred.  In the process of studying the population decline, reproductive physiologist Louis Guillette of the University of Florida noted that many of the alligators had smaller penises than normal.   Closer research linked these findings to a massive DDT spill in 1980. 


Although DDT was banned for use in the US in the early 70’s, it continues to be manufactured and marketed abroad where it is sprayed on produce, which is then sold around the world.


Increase in Breast Cancer


Fifty years ago, the risk rate was 1 woman in 20 would develop breast cancer, today it is 1 in 8.  Numerous studies suggest xenoestrogens are responsible for the increase. 


The Controversy

Governments are slow to make changes in policing industries that continue to manufacture xenoestrogen chemicals. Why? Because they believe many of the studies are still preliminary. What’s more, the industries involved protect themselves. This was evident when the New England Journal of Medicine published a study disproving the link between environmental estrogens and breast cancer. The study was found to be heavily funded by the Institute of Toxicology and Chemical Manufacturers Association, and the journal was subsequently criticized for violation of its own conflict of interest guidelines.


How to Avoid Xenoestrogens


Although it’s impossible to avoid them altogether, we can minimize exposure significantly by making some of the following lifestyle changes:


  • Use glass to store or heat food and water
  • Buy hormone free meats
  • Buy “organic” produce, grown without pesticides, herbicides or synthetic fertilizer
  • Use condoms without spermicide instead of birth control pills
  • Use unbleached feminine hygiene products or the Diva Cup, available at health food stores
  • Opt for natural alternatives to Hormone Replacement Therapy
  • Choose organic tea and coffee
  • Avoid skin lotions and sunscreens containing parabens – check with manufacturers for ingredients
  • Remove plastic wrap and Styrofoam trays from foods and replace with waxed paper
  • Eat at least one serving of cruciferous vegetables every day: broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, kale or cabbage
  • Educate yourself www.lesstoxicguide.ca and inform others about the dangers of xenoestrogens
  • Ask your health practitioner about supplements to cleanse the liver and help to block the effects of xenoestrogens in the body. Image

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