Endocrine disruptor: what are they? why are they dangerous to our health?

An endocrine disruptor is a molecule that mimics, blocks or modifies the action of a hormone and disrupts the normal functioning of an organism. They are suspected of impairing human reproduction, causing neurological disorders, promoting diabetes or immune disorders.

Among endocrine disruptors, we can find parabens in cosmetics and drugs, bisphenols (BP) in plastic packaging or cans, perfluorocarbons (PFCs) in waterproof or breathable fabrics and non-stick coatings for stoves, phthalates in cables and adhesives, not to mention pesticides.

Mode of action

Endocrine disruptors can have three modes of action. They can :

  • mimic the action of a hormone by their molecular structure similar to  a natural hormone (such as bisphenol A which has estrogenic properties);
  • block the action of a hormone by saturating its receptor;
  • interfere with the action of the hormone, such as brominated flame retardants that disrupt the function of thyroid hormones.

These modern poisons began to attract the attention of scientists in 1950 but it’s only recently that more and more countries really start to feel concern about this grat danger for the human health. How to avoid them and reduce the risk of daily exposure? Here are some answers:


Pesticides are known to contain endocrine disruptors. We must wash and remove the skin of fruits and vegetables that are consumed. For fruits and vegetables that do not peel (such as salad, which is a product particularly exposed to pesticides), it is better to consume organic. In general, the more we control what we eat by buying fresh products – if possible bio – and avoiding industrial products, the more we reduce our contacts with endocrine disruptors.


Cosmetics contain many chemicals, many of which are not yet sufficiently studied to know the effects on health. The paraben is one of them. One could also mention the triclosan, contained in some soaps and toothpastes, which is very harmful.

This is why we must ask ourselves whether we really need certain cosmetic products and try to simplify our daily life.

Household products

The same is true for household products, which are often made up of very complex chemical substances and endocrine disruptors.  Here again, it’s better to go for simplicity rather than using chemically sophisticated products. For example, white vinegar is a very effective cleaner, and safe.


Bisphenol A, an endocrine disruptor contained in many plastic materials. It is always better to take your food out of these materials and transfer them into glass, to heat and consume them.

Other precautions?

Pregnant women must pay particular attention to this problem: they are vulnerable and transmit to their developing fetus what they consume. They will need to seek advice from a doctor before taking a drug, including paracetamol, a drug in which some endocrine disruptors are found.

However, it is impossible to make an exhaustive list of these disrupters, which are everywhere and sometimes difficult to avoid. It can be found for example in the air (pollution, fumes, etc.), or in some hormonal treatments, yet sometimes vital. To become aware of it and to take care of a few precautions is therefore a good thing.

Anyway a government action to indicate the presence of these disrupters in consumer products is urgent.

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