Bisphenol-A (BPA), used in industry as a plastic hardener and component of epoxy, is synthetic estrogen that can disrupt the endocrine system, even in small amounts. It has been linked to a wide variety of ills, including infertility, breast and reproductive system cancer, obesity, diabetes, and breast cancer cell resistance to chemotherapy treatments. In the developing brain and body, BPA has been associated with reduced brain function, obesity and behavioral changes. To read more about EWG's work on BPA, see www.ewg.org/bpa.
Cadmium is a known human carcinogen associated with lung and possibly prostate, kidney and bladder cancer. Cadmium poisoning can cause death. Less severe occupational exposure can result in nausea, vomiting, coughing, chest tightness, lung toxicity, kidney damage, and impaired olfactory function. Animal studies have shown that high levels of cadmium exposure before birth affect the skeleton and reduce birth weight.
Formaldehyde is released by a number of cosmetics preservatives. Some hair straighteners contain large concentrations of formaldehyde. The International Agency for Research on Cancer has classified formaldehyde as carcinogenic to humans. Human and animal studies associate inhaled formaldehyde with nasopharyngeal cancer and leukemia. To read more about EWG's work on formaldehyde, see www.ewg.org/research/exposing-cosmetics-c over/formaldehyde-releasers.
Lead is a toxic heavy metal that can accumulate in the body and damage the brain and nervous system. Exposure to lead is linked to learning, speech, and behavior problems as well as decreased muscle and bone growth. To read about EWG's work on lead, see www.ewg.org/key-issues/toxics/lead.
Mercury is especially harmful to the nervous system. Mercury exposure during pregnancy can cause lasting damage to a developing child's brain and nervous system. Studies of children exposed to higher levels of mercury in the womb indicate that they score lower than other children on intelligence tests and perform poorly on tests of memory, attention and hyperactivity. To read more about EWG's work on mercury, see www.ewg.org/key-issues/toxics/mercury.
Fire retardants are compounds often added to consumer products such as cushioning in upholstered furniture, automobiles, car seats and children's nap mats. Some chemicals in this category have been linked to cancer, obesity, diabetes and endocrine disruption. Research has also shown an association between exposure to some fire retardants and hormone changes and sperm quality in men, and to thyroid hormone changes in women. To read EWG's latest report on fire retardants, see www.ewg.org/research/flame-retardants-2014
Phthalates are endocrine-disrupting chemicals used as plasticizers in some cosmetics and consumer goods. They cause reproductive damage and birth defects in animals, particularly males. Studies have linked some phthalates to hormone changes, lower sperm count, less mobile sperm, obesity, diabetes and thyroid irregularities in people.
Triclosan can affect thyroid hormone levels and genes that regulate thyroid function in animals. A study in people linked the chemical to altered thyroid hormone levels in adolescents. Since wastewater treatment does not eliminate it, some is discharged to rivers, streams and lakes, where it is toxic to aquatic life. To read more about EWG's work on triclosan, see www.ewg.org/key-issues/toxics/triclosan