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Monday, March 19, 2012

Environmental Estrogen Disruptors: 2 Examples

Bisphenol-A and Phthalates  (Environmental Estrogen Disruptors)

Yusuf (JP) Saleeby, MD

There are dangerous compounds out there in our environment, some closer than you think.  You don’t actually have to look very hard to find them.  The re-usable water bottles you use daily, the thermal receipt paper you are handed at the grocery store, even the corrosion proof lining in the Campbell’s soup can you just bought are all examples of items of daily living that can harm us.  Bisphenol A (BPA) is a chemical building block that is used to confer hardness to polycarbonate plastics and epoxy resins.  Some 2.8 million tons of the chemical bisphenol-A was produced in 2002 by chemical manufacturers worldwide.  BPA is used to give the polycarbonate DVDs and CDs the hardness necessary for their practicality.  Phthalates are another compound of concern.  Phthalates are part of a family of chemicals used as a vinyl softener.  There is controversy within the scientific community between independent scientists and the CDC and EPA about the safety of phthalates in our environment and their potential as estrogen disruptors.  My suggestion is to avoid products with phthalates in food storage and preparation until more research proves them safe.

Does this can contain BPA?

Environmental Estrogen Disruptors are a class of estrogenic compounds (mostly synthetic like BPA and the phthalates) that are significant disruptors of the human endocrine system.  In a sense these estrogen-like compounds affect our normal hormonal axis and cause endocrine related diseases.  Such diseases as neuro-endocrine disorders, diabetes, obesity and metabolic syndrome can be traced back to heavy and even light exposures to BPA and other phthalic acid ester compounds.  Estrogenic compounds impact human reproductive health, having an effect on the developing fetus in utero as well as fertility in men, having a negative impact on sperm counts.

Bisphenol-A (BPA) is a compound that acts upon estrogen receptors in our cells.  The consequence of this environmental toxin or hormone disruptor is that it impacts human cells to enact changes undesirable for our health and wellbeing.  For example, there is scientifically proven link between BPA and obesity and metabolic syndrome (which results in truncal obesity, elevated triglycerides, hypertension and glucose intolerance or pre-diabetes).  Additionally, researchers have found a strong link between BPA and phthalates in birth defects and male infertility.  Did you know the phthalates in men’s cologne have been implicated in low sperm counts?

Escaping the exposure of estrogen disruptors completely would be a herculean task.  There are so pervasive in our daily lives that the task of avoiding them would be a all consuming effort.  However, there are steps that can be taken today and tomorrow.  Today we can avoid BPA containing containers (when we are able to identify them), avoid touching thermal paper receipts, or washing our hands immediately afterwards are just two examples [read below for more].  Additionally, we need to be careful with food container systems, such as the BPA containing soup can linings and juice box containers.

Tomorrow we can force the industry to recall and remove these harmful compounds.  We can pressure the commercially available soup manufacturers to stop using synthetic anti-corrosion linings that contaminate our food with BPA.  We can seek to pressure the paper industry to avoid BPA and BPS compounds that add this estrogenic contaminant to our environments. As we have forced the baby bottle and water container manufacturers to now produce BPA-free products we can continue to fight in new arenas.

How to recognize whether BPA is in the plastic container you have?  A few simple steps can help:  Check for the universal “recycle triangle” and if the number 7 appears, then it is likely to contain BPA (unless it is marked as BPA-free).  If you have food or beverage in a number-7 recycle container don’t cook, microwave or freeze food in it, it will leach the dangerous BPA into your food that you will consume.  Use glass (Pyrex) or other safe containers for cooking and storage.  Avoid box juices; avoid foods (canned tomatoes and soups) until FDA bans BPA in food storage containers. 

·         Drink tap water or rely on BPA-free plastic or stainless steel water bottles (from companies like Nalgene or Sigg) instead of some clear plastic re-usable bottles containing BPA.  Most “bottled water” comes in soft-plastic containers which are made of polyethylene tetrachloride (PET) and while not containing BPA are harmful for the environment as a waste product filling up landfills.
·         Instead of eating ready-to-eat meals that come out of metal cans lined with a BPA containing epoxy resins, eat only freshly-prepared foods. 
·         Instead of using plastic utensils, rely on the longer-lasting variety.  While some are made of polyethylene or polypropylene, no telling if the hardener BPA was used.  Best to use wood, bamboo or metal utensils to cook with.
·         To be safe, avoid all canned foods and replace with non-canned variations (replace canned soup with soup in a carton, for example) unless cans denote that they have a BPA-free lining. If that's not possible, avoid these specific canned foods, which are known to be high in BPA: coconut milk, soup, meat, vegetables, meals, juice, fish, beans, meal-replacement drinks, and fruit (yes, we realize that encompasses most canned foods).
·         Use glass containers along with BPA-free plastic lids when microwaving or reheating foods. The food should not touch the lids.
·         Instead of using a plastic coffee-maker or going out for coffee, use a French press or ceramic drip.
·         Avoid touching thermal-paper receipts.  If you must, wash your hands immediately.
·         Check to make sure your dietary supplement “gel caps or tablets” are not coated with a BPA sealer.  When we take dietary supplement vitamins, we don’t want to be introducing this nasty toxin into our systems.
·         Phthalates as a class of compounds are found in cosmetics, personal care products and even perfumes and colognes. They may be designated as DBP, DEHP, DzBP and DMP.  One recent study showed a correlation between men using cologne and low testosterone and sperm levels.
·         When choosing plastics use the recycling code 1, 2 & 5.  Avoid codes 3 and 7 as they are more likely to contain bisphenol A and phthalates.

The US EPA is attempting to catch up and screen for endocrine disruptors with the advent of the Endocrine Disruptor Screening Program (EDSP, but action is slow and we are behind Canada and much of Europe.  In 2010 Canada declared Bisphenol A a toxic substance.  The European Union (EU) in 2011 banned BPA in any baby bottle products.


Carwile JL, Ye X, Zhou X, Calafat AM, Michels KB. Canned soup consumption and  urinary bisphenol A: a randomized crossover trial. JAMA. 2011 Nov 23;306(20):2218-20. PubMed PMID: 22110104.

Vom Saal FS, Myers JP. Bisphenol A and risk of metabolic disorders. JAMA. 2008 Sep 17;300(11):1353-5. Epub 2008 Sep 16. PubMed PMID: 18799451.

EDSP,, Acquired 3/18/12

Diamanti-Kandarakis E, Bourguignon JP, Giudice LC, Hauser R, Prins GS, Soto AM, Zoeller RT, Gore AC. 2009. Endocrine-disrupting chemicals: an Endocrine Society scientific statement. Endocr Rev. 30(4):293-342

Schlumpf M SP, Durrer S, Conscience M, Maerkel K, Henseler M, Gruetter M, Herzog I, Reolon S, Ceccatelli R, Faass O, Stutz E, Jarry H, Wuttke W, Lichtensteiger W. 2004. Endocrine activity and developmental toxicity of cosmetic UV filters--an update. Toxicology 205(1-2): 113-122

Campaign for safe cosmetics and environmental working group,, Acquired 3/18/12, Acquired 3/18/12


Dr. Saleeby is an emergency room physician and longevity expert.  He has worked and managed patients in preventive medicine for bHRT and detoxification.  He has authored a book on adaptogen herbs and many articles on ways to maintain a healthy and fit lifestyle.


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