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Disrupting the Disruptors: Convening a Research Discussion To Mitigate Endocrine-Disrupting Chemicals

Director’s Page
Helene M. Langevin, M.D.

May 13, 2024

At the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH), we focus on supporting research that helps us understand whole person health and how different aspects of health (biological, behavioral, social, environmental) interact with one another.  

That’s why I’m excited about partnering with the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) to host a 2-day workshop on June 10–11, 2024, “Complementary and Integrative Interventions To Prevent and Mitigate the Effects of Endocrine-Disrupting Chemicals.” The discussion will focus on research directions in complementary and integrative health that can inform how to reduce and mitigate the effects of endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs) that are ubiquitous in our current environment.  

While concerns over polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS)—often called “forever chemicals”—have been in the spotlight in recent years, the presence of EDCs and the threat they pose to our health is not new. Every day, most of us may be exposed to not just PFAS but many other chemicals like bisphenol A (BPA), phthalates, triclosan, and polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDE). These exposures may occur frequently through consumer products like food packaging, children’s toys, flame retardant furnishings, cosmetics, weed killers, and even healthy-sounding antibacterial soap. These chemicals can enter your body through skin contact, breathing the air, and eating and drinking. 

Even small doses of these chemicals can disrupt one of the most important functions in our bodies—the work of the endocrine system. The endocrine system is a bit like a busy computer server that processes messages that dictate what happens with our hormones—which ones are released in our bodies, when, and how much.  

The potential health harms of endocrine disrupting chemicals can create a sense of fear, futility, and frustration. But research that shows us how to reduce their harmful effects can help galvanize positive action.That’s exactly why our discussion in June will be so important. Over the course of the 2-day event, experts will tackle a range of challenging and complex questions:

  • What is the state of the science in understanding the relationship between EDCs and human health?
  • What is the role of EDCs in health disparities that persistently impact different communities?
  • How can we reduce our risk of exposure and subsequent health harms?
  • Are there avoidable factors (such as stress) that amplify the effects of EDCs? If so, can addressing these factors help prevent harmful effects? 
  • Are there ways to promote resilience against the diseases that are associated with EDCs? What roles do diet, sleep, and physical activity play? Can a healthy microbiome create a protective effect? 
  • How do we bring together what we know to inform a research strategy and yield improved health? 

These topics align closely to NCCIH’s ongoing work to better understand whole person health. Through a concerted approach to research, we can learn more about the role of complementary and integrative health practices in mitigating the impact of EDCs. Exploring key topics will yield new understanding of how we can enhance resilience to minimize the adverse effects of exposures, particularly in vulnerable populations that are persistently burdened by health disparities. 

I’m grateful to the experts and community members who will be attending the event and sharing their insights on the challenges we face and approaches that can overcome them. Together, we can take on the difficult research questions regarding EDCs and strike a pragmatic balance between developing long-term strategies and identifying what we can do in the short term to counteract the exposures we inevitably experience in our daily lives. I hope you’ll join the conversation by registering today to attend the workshop virtually. 

Helene M. Langevin, M.D.
Helene M. Langevin, M.D.