Twelve Endocrine Disruptors to Avoid

Yesterday, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) released a “dirty dozen” list of endocrine disruptors to avoid, similar to their dirty dozen list of produce to buy organic.

Endocrine disruptors, quite simply, are chemicals that interfere with hormones in the body. They’re particularly scary because very small amounts can have very big effects, particularly during development.  

You and I don’t have unlimited time to investigate every single ingredient in our shampoo, so it is great to have a list like this to know what to look for, just like we know to buy strawberries and apples organic but not worry too much about avocados.

Most of the endocrine disruptors on the list are names you will recognize, big baddies like lead and dioxin, but some you may not recognize by name.  The list describes in plain English what is so bad about these chemicals and gives suggestions for avoiding them; most enter our body either through food or water.  It’s definitely worth taking a look at.

Here’s a quick breakdown based on where we find them:


  • BPA: in the lining of tin cans, plastics #3, 6, 7, cash register receipts
  • Dioxin: contaminates animal products (meat, dairy)
  • Phthalates: in plastics, particularly #3
  • Perchlorate (an industrial chemical, also known as rocket fuel)
  • Mercury: found in fish high on the food chain
  • Perfluorinated chemials: non-stick coatings
  • Organophosphate pesticides: in produce

To avoid: eat local, fresh, organic, sustainable food when possible, and watch out for some plastics and receipts.

Body Products

  • Dioxin: a contaminant of synthetic ingredients
  • Phthalates: “fragrance” often includes phthalates
  • Glycol ethers: volatile organic chemicals (VOCs) found in cosmetics

To avoid: check product ingredients on the EWG Skin Deep database or make your own. The latter is something that I’ve been working on; more tutorials coming soon!


  • Atrazine
  • Perchlorate
  • Lead
  • Arsenic

To avoid: filter your water.  This isn’t something that I do now, but I know that I should.

Home furnishings

  • Flame retardants: found in anything made of foam
  • Lead: paint
  • Perfluorinated chemicals: water resistant coatings
  • Glycol ethers: VOCs in paint and cleaning products

To avoid: use a vacuum with a HEPA filter to minimize dust, use safer cleaning products, test for lead, and look for flame retardant free furniture.

For more details, read the full list here. Also, this article from the Huffington Post sums up current disputes over endocrine disruptors such as BPA pretty well.

What do you think? Did they miss any chemicals that are important to you?  Do you have any water filter recommendations for me?


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