02/27/2013 10:42 EST | Updated 04/28/2013 05:12 EDT

UN and WHO Release Report Warning of Human Health Risk of Toxics in Household Products

The topic of links between chemicals found in household products and cancer was brought to the world stage this week.

The UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and the World Health Organization (WHO) released a joint report "State of the Science of Endocrine-Disrupting Chemicals." The report is a comprehensive review of recent science on endocrine-disrupting chemicals. These chemicals, including phthalates, an additive to plastics and cosmetics, are known as endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs), AKA hormone-disrupting chemicals.

The report warns that many chemicals found in household and industrial products could lead to significant health issues due to their disrupting effect on the human hormonal system. Many of these chemicals are now widespread, though they have not been adequately tested for safety and health effects.

Bolstering calls for action from concerned scientists, medical professionals, and environmental health campaigners, the report highlights associations between exposure to endocrine-disrupting chemicals and health problems such as breast cancer, thyroid cancer and prostate cancer, and attention deficit disorder and hyperactivity in children.

This is significant because in recent decades there have been spikes in the rates of young women with thyroid cancer, and rates of young men with testicular cancer. Some scientists have expressed concern about possible links between endocrine-disrupting chemical exposures and the increase in cases of testicular cancer.

Our recent report "The Manscape" also highlights the links between endocrine-disrupting chemicals and male health problems such as testicular cancer and prostate cancer, and provides information about how to avoid being exposed to these chemicals in grooming products.

What Environmental Defence is doing about this issue

Environmental Defence has been working to rid Canadian homes of toxic substances since 2005 when we started testing Canadians for the presence of these chemicals. We successfully fought to have the endocrine disruptor BPA banned from baby bottles, and to have phthalates banned from children's toys. Now we are working to rid cosmetics of phthalates and other endocrine-disrupting chemicals, by working with government and industry to make products safer.

For tips on how to reduce exposure from household products, check out our Toxic Nation Tips and Guides. For information about avoiding endocrine disrupting chemicals in cosmetics check out the Just Beautiful Campaign. And consider raising your voice by signing and sharing our petitions.