An endocrine disruptor is a chemical that can interfere with communication between living cells. The EDC (endocrine disrupting chemical) mimics naturally occurring hormones in and actually binds to hormone receptors in the cell as a hormone would. This changes the activity of the cell in often unpredictable ways. And because the effects are so unpredictable, there is no “safe level” of exposure. Rather than causing damage directly, as a toxin, the EDC is a catalyst for damage, which may play out in large or small ways in the current individual, or generations later.
Some EDCs occur naturally but many are from human-manufactured chemicals. There are unfortunately many sources of EDCs in our environment — they are in plasticizers in home and personal care products, and are released into the air from manufacturing processes when plastics are burned. However pesticides (insecticides, herbicides, fumigants and fungicides) used on our food are a primary source. Thus, we can significantly reduce our exposure to endocrine disruptors by choosing organic foods.
Learn more about endocrine disruptors with this flyer from Beyond Pesticides.
Natural Resources Defense Council has a health document on EDCs.