Q: What exactly are endocrine disruptors? And do I need to worry about chemicals that mimic estrogens like BPA?



A: First, let's do a quick review: Natural estrogens, female sex hormones, are responsible for female sexual development and play an essential role in fertility, pregnancy, and lactation. However, in males and females excess estrogens can cause birth defects, abnormal sexual development, problems with the nervous system and immune system, and even cancer.

Many synthetic chemicals (endocrine disruptors) have estrogen-like activity when absorbed into the body. These environmental estrogens can interfere with the action or production of the natural hormones and disrupt normal processes that are essential to reproductive health, cardiovascular function, and weight control.

More research is necessary on the direct relationship between endocrine disruptors and certain health issues like obesity and infertility, but the associations drawn from past studies are enough to make anyone cautious about their exposure to these chemicals.

Are you at risk? Here's what you what you need to know about three major endocrine disruptors:

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