What is EDC and what does it have to do with cosmetics?

EDC (Endocrine disrupting chemicals) – chemicals that destroy the endocrine system (a system of glands that make hormones). Currently, a team of European Union experts classified approximately 150 substances as EDCs. Surprisingly, representatives of this group of substances can still be part of food, plastic packaging and cosmetic products. What compounds are included in EDC? How dangerous are they? And is it worth buying a product if it includes EDC? We will try to answer these questions in this article.

What substances belong to EDC?

It must be said that substances belonging to the EDC group can be of both natural and synthetic origin. For example, various phytoestrogens (genistein and coumestrol) can enter the human body with food. At the same time, as part of cosmetics, we can encounter synthetic EDC such as parabens (more details here https://beawire.com/ru/2019/05/06/parabens-in-cosmetics-and-drugs/https://beawire.com/ru/2019/05/06/parabens-in-cosmetics-and-drugs/) or triclosan(more here https://beawire.com/ru/2019/06/26/triclosan-in-the-composition-of-medical-products/https://beawire.com/ru/2019/06/26/triclosan-in-the-composition-of-medical-products/), and the plastic package may include bisphenol A.

The list of EDC is big, but the most common EDC can be found on the US National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences website (https://www.niehs.nih.gov/health/topics/agents/endocrine/index.cfmhttps://www.niehs.nih.gov/health/topics/agents/endocrine/index.cfm) and on the website of the European Union Commission (https://ec.europa.eu/environment/chemicals/endocrine/pdf/sota_edc_final_report.pdf). Information could not be found on official websites of Russian state structures.

What’s dangerous about EDC?

Here it is worth talking about the mechanism of action of EDC in the human body. The whole point is that substances of this group are able to interact with receptors of steroid (such as sex hormones), thyroid and other hormones. EDC, regularly ingested in small doses, accumulate, interact synergistically. Their introduction in the chain of biochemical reactions can lead to the development of diseases shown in Figure 1.


Fig. 1. Effects of endocrine disrupting chemicals expose on the human body. (accord to Nowak, K et al).

How to keep yourself safe?

According to the State of the Science of Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals, a new report by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and WHO, the EDC-Expansion Problem Becomes global. The study takes a number of comments to improve global knowledge of these chemicals and reduce potential disease risks. These include:

  • Testing: known EDCs are only the ‘tip of the iceberg’ and more compliant testing methods are required to identify other possible endocrine disruptors, their sources, and routes of exposure.
  • Research: more scientific evidence is needed to identify the effects of mixtures of EDCs on human and wildlife (mainly from industrial by products) to which humans and wildlife are increasingly exposed.
  • Reporting: many sources of EDCs are not known cause of insufficient reporting and information on chemicals in products, materials and goods.
  • Collaboration: more data sharing between scientists and between countries can fill gaps in data.

Of course, this approach will help consumers become more aware of potentially dangerous substances as part of cosmetic products, food products and other everyday goods. However, it is important to control the content of EDC even before entering the market. It makes sense to rationalize the content of such substances, introduce more serious quality control techniques to identify and quantify EDC, and include warning markings on packages limiting the consumption of a product, in case the EDC cannot be excluded from the product composition, such as in the case of parabens in medicinal products.


  1. Drabiak, “Dying to Be  Fresh  and  Clean?  Regulatory  Shortcomings  Governing  Toxicants  in  Personal  Care  Prod-ucts,  the  Impact  on  Cancer  Risk,  and  Epigenetic  Damage,”  Pace  Environmental  Law  Review  35,  no.  1  (2017):  75-107  at  102-104
  2. Nowak, K., Jabłońska, E., & Ratajczak-Wrona, W. (2019). Immunomodulatory effects of synthetic endocrine disrupting chemicals on the development and functions of human immune cells. Environment International, 125, 350–364. doi:10.1016/j.envint.2019.01.078
  3. https://www.who.int/ru/news-room/detail/19-02-2013-effects-of-human-exposure-to-hormone-disrupting-chemicals-examined-in-landmark-un-report
  4. https://ec.europa.eu/environment/chemicals/endocrine/documents/studies_en.htm
  5. https://www.niehs.nih.gov/health/topics/agents/endocrine/index.cfm