News from CRIS: Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals - Digging Deeper: Phthalates

December 15, 2020

What are endocrine disrupting chemicals?

Endocrine disrupting chemicals are compounds that can interfere with maintaining the appropriate balance of our hormones by either changing the amount of hormone being made or by mimicking the biological action of a hormone. However, this does not mean endocrine disrupting chemicals all cause harm.
Endocrine disrupting chemicals like the kind found in prescribed pharmaceuticals can be incredibly beneficial to the recipient and are typically referred to as “endocrine acting.” For example, birth control pills can either contain the hormones progestin and estrogen or progestin-only, both of which are also naturally made in women's ovaries. By artificially changing the amount and timing in the rise of these two hormones by taking a pill, women can avoid pregnancy. Birth control can also help with specific medical conditions. 

However, endocrine disrupting chemicals such as contaminants found in large enough quantities that are not prescribed and monitored by a healthcare professional have the potential to cause great harm to the body and we can face a number of adverse health outcomes such as reproductive health issues, cognitive deficits, obesity, and can potentially contribute to cancer (1).

What are phthalates?

Phthalates, frequently called plasticizers, are a group of compounds that give many plastics their key flexibility characteristics (1).

Are all phthalates the same?

No, phthalates encompass a diverse group of compounds and not all phthalates possess the same properties and safety ratings.
Meaning, some phthalates may not cause harm to human health and other phthalates may cause adverse health outcomes (1,2).

It’s important to understand that different compounds in the phthalate family may cause different outcomes.


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