Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals, or ‘EDCs’, are chemicals that interfere with our hormonal system (otherwise known as the endocrine system). Hormones carry chemical messages around the body, and are responsible for metabolism, mood, pregnancy, and the growth and development of organs – they are essential to the healthy functioning of the body.
Exposure to EDCs, which interfere with the ability of hormones to do their job, has been linked to reproductive abnormalities, impaired mental development, immune disorders, obesity, cancer and other diseases. Foetuses, children and pregnant women are at greatest risk of health problems due to EDC exposure, and the scary fact is: EDCs are everywhere.
Thanks to the chemical industry’s powerful lobbying, EDCs remain largely unregulated in Europe, so they can show up anywhere in our daily lives, from food and water to shampoo and detergent, and even in baby toys. The fight to properly regulate these dangerous chemicals is taking place in the EU right now, with various national and international NGOs, consumer groups and others taking on the chemical industry for the sake of our hormonal health.
But there are things you can do right now to take care of your hormones. For example, eat organic! Pesticides contain EDCs, and trace amounts of the chemicals sprayed on food in the fields will end up on your plate. Even very small amounts can have significant effects as they accumulate over time.
When choosing cosmetic and bodycare products, read the ingredients and look out for parabens, a kind of preservative used in all sorts of beauty and hygiene products. Parabens specifically affect the female reproductive hormone oestrogen.
Because they can be found in furniture, electronics and household cleaning products, EDCs are highly concentrated in dust, so keep your home well ventilated by opening windows, and be sure to hoover often!
On Thursday 25th June we screened Endocrination (2014), a fantastic documentary on EDCs and their regulation directed by Stéphane Horel, at St Hilda’s East Community Centre in Tower Hamlets, with an introduction by EDC experts Helen Lynn and Donna Murphy of the campaign group EDC Free Me. The film follows an unborn child sent by future generations – those most at risk from EDCs – to investigate the European commission, where industry, scientists and NGOs fight for influence. Attacks on independent researchers, manipulation of science, conflicts of interest - the film lifts the veil on the various strategies used by lobbyists, borrowed from the tobacco industry’s tool-box, to short-circuit the plans for desperately needed regulation on EDCs.
You can watch the entire film here: