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6 Steps to Reduce Exposure to Synthetic Hormones in Food

Hormones are responsible for much more than just acne in teenagers and mood swings in pregnant women.

Hormones are responsible for much more than just acne in teenagers and mood swings in pregnant women. They are the messengers for much of your body’s functioning, including growth and development, immune response, regulation of metabolism, and reproduction among other things.


The body creates its own hormones to take care of these vital duties, but many synthetic chemicals also mimic hormones. Some are intentionally developed to do so, like birth control pills or recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBGH) and others accidentally disrupt hormones, like bisphenol-A and phthalates.

And, whether natural or synthetic, hormones are powerful. It only takes a miniscule amount to cause big changes. That’s why understanding hormones is extremely important.

The Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy released a Smart Guide covering the issue of hormones in the food system. And, there are a lot more than you were probably aware of, including:

- Hormone growth promoters given to food animals
- Hormone-active pesticides sprayed on food crops
- Hormone plastic additives in baby bottles, infant formula cans or other food packaging
- Hormone disruptors that build up in the food chain (like brominated flame retardants)

Plenty of uncertainties still remain about the impacts associated with these substances, but preliminary studies paint a disturbing picture.

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According to the Guide:

“[E]ver-strengthening science links exposure to many individual hormone disruptors—pesticides, Teflon chemicals, plasticizers and food contaminants—with these common or rising chronic conditions, including:

Breast and prostate cancer
Thyroid disease
Obesity and diabetes
Endometriosis, uterine fibroids and infertility
Immune-related disease, such as asthma or allergies

Increasingly, exposure in the womb to these same chemicals is implicated in serious problems found in newborns such as birth defects and low birth weight, as well as reduced odds of having a boy child. A recent study links a mother’s high beef consumption while pregnant (steroid growth promoter use is widespread in beef production) with lower sperm counts in her son.”

While waiting for conclusive research, IATP advises consumers to take precautions and reduce exposure by following these steps:

1. Eat low-fat meats and dairy products.
2. Eat “certified” organic when possible.
3. Avoid pesticide hormones. Peel your fruits and vegetables, especially if they have been waxed, or wash them with a vegetable wash or diluted vinegar to remove surface pesticide residues.
4. Use hormone-free cans and bottles.
5. Demand that your elected officials support stronger efforts to keep synthetic hormones out of our food supply.
6. Read the “Smart Plastics Guide,” the “Smart Guide on Sludge Use in Food Production,” and IATP’s other Smart Guides at

Learn more about why these steps are important and exactly how to take them by reading the full Smart Guide to Hormones in the Food System.


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