Health Impacts

Since natural hormones in our bodies act so powerfully in very small amounts, it is not surprising that scientists have found that EDCs can also have severe effects at tiny doses.

Studies have linked EDC exposures to infertility, breast and prostate cancer, diabetes and obesity, and a variety of other diseases. Exposures have also been linked to increased rates of dyslexia, mental retardation, ADHD and autism. Ninety percent of all people have some evidence of EDCs in their bodies. Fetuses, babies and children are particularly vulnerable to these chemicals because they are growing and developing so rapidly. EDC exposures during critical developmental stages can lead to life-long health problems and in some cases, can even affect generations to come, passing down health problems to our children’s children and beyond.

What’s especially troubling about EDCs is that current testing methods and health protective rules were not developed to meet the challenges posed by chemicals that can cause health problems at such small doses. Current policies are based on the outdated assumption that larger doses of any chemical must be more toxic than smaller ones. But this is not the case with EDCs.

In fact, many studies have shown that EDCs can sometimes cause severe harm at smaller doses, while having little or no effect at larger ones.

This seems impossible, but scientists say that there are many ways this can happen. One way is similar to a situation with a lock and a set of keys that all fit the lock. If you force many keys into the lock, it won’t unlock — more likely, it will jam and stop working altogether. But use just a single key, and that’s enough to turn the lock.

That’s how some hormone-altering chemicals appear to have the power to wreak havoc in our bodies at very small doses. Like many keys, large doses may be incapable of having much of an impact, because they overwhelm the receptors in our bodies where hormones do their work. Smaller doses, like just one key, can fit into these receptors — and that’s when hormone-altering chemicals cause health problems.

After health advocates worked for decades to end lead poisoning threats, medical experts came to the conclusion that there is no safe level of lead exposure, especially for children. Now scientists are coming to the same conclusion on EDCs. In 2012, a lead author of a major study on EDCs stated that there are “no safe doses for these hormone-altering chemicals.” The study’s authors also expressed concern that government “safety” levels for such chemicals have been improperly established, since the substances have never been tested for low-level effects.

See a short video on EDCs from the Endocrine Society