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Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals. (EDCs) In Our Lives. Presented by the Labour Environmental Alliance Society (LEAS). With the assistance of Reach for Unbleached!. The endocrine system is a network of glands that release many different hormones, sometimes in very tiny amounts.

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presented by the labour environmental alliance society leas

Presented by the Labour Environmental Alliance Society (LEAS)

With the assistance of Reach for Unbleached!


The endocrine system is a network of glands that release many different hormones, sometimes in very tiny amounts

Homones control growth, sexual and mental development, and many other functions

edcs have many names
Environmental estrogens

Hormone mimickers





Endocrine-active compounds

Or, generically, Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals (EDCs)

EDCs have many names
they have some familiar impacts
They have some familiar impacts
  • Carcinogens
  • Mutagens
  • Neurotoxins

But it wasn’t until the 1990s that

scientists began to understand. . .

the systemic problem
The systemic problem

“Many compounds introduced into the environment by human activity are capable of disrupting the endocrine system of animals, including fish, wildlife, and humans. The consequences of such disruption

can be profound. . .” - From the consensus statement of the inter-disciplinary scientists who met at Wingspread Conference in July 1991.

many studies link edcs to
Many studies link EDCs to:
  • Reproductive disorders
  • Immune system dysfunction
  • Certain cancers, especially of reproductive organs
  • Birth defects of the penis and falling sperm counts
  • Neurological effects
  • Attention deficit disorder and poor memory
  • Low IQ
orcas endangered species
Orcas – Endangered Species

In the Salish Sea of Georgia Strait and Puget Sound, orcas are some of the most contaminated animals in the world, with EDCs from urban discharge from Vancouver and Seattle, from industrial waste, and from oil. Their PCB (polychlorinated biphenyl) levels would be high enough to cause death in other mammals.


“If even as little as 15% more of world PCB stocks gets into the oceans, the extinction of marine mammals would be inevitable… The consequence of failing to control PCB releases to oceans will be the extinction of marine mammals and the chemical fouling of ocean fisheries, rendering them unsuitable for use by humans.”- Professor Joseph Cummins, University of Western Ontario

animal evidence surrounds us
Animal evidence surrounds us
  • Like many other mammals affected by EDCs, otters from the Lower Columbia River are infertile because the males’ penises are too small to mate
  • Alligators affected by pesticides cannot reproduce
  • Male fish develop female hormones
  • In birds, eggshells thin so chicks cannot survive

If you eat “high on the food chain”- lots of meat, fish,or dairy products - you and your children are exposed to Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals

many edcs are bioaccumulative
Many EDCs are bioaccumulative
  • Instead of breaking down, or being eliminated after they are eaten, they concentrate up the food chain, to higher and higher concentrations.
  • Because we dump so much waste into the water,

fish are particularly sensitive accumulators of EDCs

among those most exposed
Among those most exposed
  • Members of ethnic groups with fish-eating cultures
  • Fishermen and other people from coastal communities
  • Recreational fishers who eat their catch
  • People of the First Nations
if you live near an industrial site an autoshop or a highway you are exposed to edcs

If you live near an industrial site, an autoshop, or a highway, you are exposed to EDCs.

If you use cosmetics, cleaning products, or plastic in your daily life, you are exposed to EDCs.


Every month, the results of new research explain more of the puzzle of how EDCs affect fish, plants and animals,including humans.

consensus statement from scientists who study edcs
Consensus Statementfrom scientists who study EDCs

“Every pregnant woman in the world has endocrine disruptors in her body that are transferred to the fetus.

“She also has measurable concentrations of endocrine disruptors in her milk that are transferred to the infant.”

Erice, Italy November 1995

the body has three marvelous communication systems
The body has three marvelous communication systems
  • The nervous system
  • The immune system
  • The endocrine system, a network of glands which release hormones
hormones are chemical signals
Hormones are chemical signals

which regulate almost every biological process:

  • Growth and development
  • Mental development, mood, memory
  • Sexual maturation
  • Immune function
hormones are released by the glands
Hormones are released by the glands
  • And travel through the blood until they reach their particular receptor cell
  • Where they fit, like a key in a lock, to turn on or off functions
endocrine disrupting chemicals23
Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals
  • Are natural or man-made compounds
  • Which fit into hormone receptors
  • Blocking the normal hormone, or
  • Acting instead of the normal hormone, in an irregular manner
early development is crucial
Early development is crucial

A particular signal blocked during early pregnancy can affect both children and adults

For example, children of mothers who ate low doses of PCBs in fish from Lake Michigan show effects 11 years later

known sources of edcs
Known sources of EDCs
  • Pesticides, herbicides, insecticides, fungicides, persistent and non-persistent, new and old, from DDt to tributyltin (TBT)
example tributyltin tbt

EXAMPLE: Tributyltin (TBT)

Used as an anti-foulant for boats, and now banned for all small boats. Still legal on large boats and used on clothing to inhibit fungal growth. Most female snails in British Columbia harbours have imposex, including penises, because of TBT.

known sources of edcs27
Known sources of EDCs
  • Leaching from most plastic products, especially the phthalates used to make plastics and stabilize them so they do not break down in sunlight
example di 2 ethylhexyl phthalate dehp

EXAMPLE: Di-2-ethylhexyl-phthalate(DEHP)

Health Canada warned in January 2002 that DEHP plasticizer in PVC medical devices like bags and tubing may harm developing babies, infants and young boys due to possible effects on male reproductive tract development

known sources of edcs29
Known sources of EDCs
  • Drugs such as birth control pills, DES, and cimetidine, especially in sewage water

DES, diethylibestrol, given to mothers to prevent morning sickness, caused genital cancers in their children 20 years later.

known sources of edcs30
Known sources of EDCs
  • Ordinary household products, such as the nonylphenols added to detergents and soaps
  • Commercial cleaners
example nonylphenol np

EXAMPLE: Nonylphenol (NP)

Added to pesticides and detergents as a “surfactant” to make the chemical work better in water, NP is one of the agents suspected of changing the sex of fish in rivers around the world.

known sources of edcs32
Known sources of EDCs
  • Industrial chemicals such as polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), dioxins, and polyaromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs).
example benzo a pyrene

EXAMPLE: Benzo(a)pyrene

A by-product of the burning of fossil fuels such as oil and gas, benzo(a)pyrene is one of the polyaromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) suspected of causing liver cancer in English Sole in Burrard Inlet.

known sources of edcs34
Known sources of EDCs
  • Heavy metals
    • Arsenic
    • Lead
    • Cadmium
    • Mercury
in other words endocrine disrupting chemicals are everywhere

In other words,Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals are everywhere

People are organizing, and governments are paying attention, to change this.

Right now EDCs are in our food, in the water, in the air.

In a mother’s milk,

and in the womb.

we don t know what this means
We don’t know what this means
  • Because the biology and the impacts are complicated, and exposures to many different

EDCs occur over a lifetime

  • Species react differently
  • Age groups and sexes at exposure react differently
  • Impacts can occur in the next generation, or the next. . . . . .
their impact on humans is not yet known
Their impact on humans is not yet known
  • but we do know some types of cancers and birth defects seem to be on the increase
    • This fetus has an eye defect which is on the increase, and the increase is not likely to be the result of better reporting
we are told
We are told

the EDCs are in our food and water at very low levels.

Hormones operate at these same low levels – parts per billion or trillion.

are there solutions yes
Are There Solutions? Yes!
  • The “Swedish Solution”
    • The Swedish Environment Committee has proposed that if a chemical is bioaccumulative or persistent, it should not be used in products, or released into the environment, thus bypassing the long and tedious scientific and political arguments about toxicity
swedish blueprint
Swedish Blueprint
  • 2002: all companies must supply product information to allow informed consumer choice
  • 2007: all products on the market to be free from
    • substances that are persistent and liable to bioaccumulate,
    • lead, mercury and cadmium, and
    • substances that cause serious or irreversible effects on health or the environment
  • 2012: production to eliminate deliberate use of any of the above, and emissions to be free from substances that cause serious or chronic health effects
are there solutions yes43
Are There Solutions? Yes!
  • Prevention & Precaution:
    • Minimize toxics use
    • Tax incentives to invest in worker training for and switch to non-polluting alternatives.

For example, Glad produces an additive free plastic wrap.

the precautionary principle
The Precautionary Principle
  • If there is reason to doubt the safety of a discharge, don’t do it! In the absence of scientific certainty, err on the side of precaution.
are there solutions yes45
Are There Solutions? Yes!
  • Phase out the worst substances immediately:
    • Persistent, bioaccumulative toxic chemicals
    • Known endocrine-disrupting chemicals and others as identified.
  • Zero Discharge
    • Design Factories and plants so that they do not release their waste into the environment – in or outside the plant gates!
working together for solutions
Working together for Solutions
  • The Cleaners and Toxins project from Labour Environmental Alliance Society helps workers get toxics out of commercial cleaning products, and the sewers and ecosystem, by acting on the toxic ingredients revealed by Material Safety Data Sheets.
  • The Office Paper Buying Club organized by

Reach for Unbleached! lowers the price and increases access to recycled chlorine free paper, harnessing market forces to encourage clean production

personal precautions
Personal Precautions
  • Don’t put plastics in the microwave
  • Do eat organic food as much as possible
  • Don’t breastfeed after 6 months
  • Do use Toxic Smart cleaning practices in your home and workplace
further information
Further Information
  • www.ourstolenfuture.org
  • www.pollutionwatch.org
  • www.rfu.org
  • www.whyfiles.org
  • www.LEAS.org
thank you
Thank you
  • Orca photo by Peter Thomas
  • Crop Duster and ship from the National Ocean Service Photo Gallery
  • Miranda Holmes
  • David Lane, T. Buck Suzuki Foundation
  • Joan Sell