Plastic pollution and its influence on our planet are widely discussed. And rightly so. However, plastic can also directly influence our health. And this influence is far from positive. This topic is somewhat overlooked, so this article looks at one type of this negative influence – the disruption of our hormonal systems.

Both female and male hormone systems are incredibly complicated. The hormonal system is affected by many factors and is regulated by several organs in our bodies. The organs and processes participating in this regulation are called the Endocrine System as a whole. Some natural and artificial chemicals can interfere with this system. Such chemicals are known as Endocrine Disruptors.

The chemical elements that can antagonize or mimic naturally produced oestrogens have estrogenic activity (EA). They are the most common form of endocrine disruptors [1]. Endocrine disruptors with EA have significant effects on mammal health, including obesity, early puberty in females, reduced fertility in males, and several types of cancer. We are especially vulnerable to endocrine disruptions as babies and children, but adults are not immune to their influence either.

The exposure occurs from various sources. Food and beverages, pesticides, and cosmetic are perhaps the most common ones. The most common endocrine disruptors with EA are:

Bisphenol A (BPA): found in many types of plastic food containers;
Perfluoroalkyl and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS): found in some non-stick coatings of cookware;
Polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDE): found in furniture with flame retardant properties;
Phthalates: found in many items, from cosmetics to children’s toys.

It is impossible to shield yourself from the influence of endocrine disruptors fully. In addition, it isn’t easy to make a switch overnight. And we should not be too scared; stress does not have a beneficial influence on health either. But it is possible to reduce your exposure to these harmful elements by switching to non-plastic alternatives when possible. Our bodies are resilient and capable of protecting us, among other things they can do, but we need to help them. Staying positive and introducing healthier alternatives to your life is one of the ways.

[1] Yang et al (2011). Most Plastic Products Release Estrogenic Chemicals: A Potential Health Problem That Can Be Solved. Environmental health perspectives, 119(7): 989–996.
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3222987/