What Are Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals? 

What Are Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals? 

In recent years, physicians, regulators, and consumers have brought to light an underregulated group of toxic substances known as endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs). Commonly found in consumer and industrial products, EDCs can radically alter gene expression and overthrow the body’s sensitive hormonal balance. 

In addition to demands for more robust regulations, consumers have begun to file product liability lawsuits against the manufacturers and distributors of an array of EDC-containing goods. Targeting AFFF firefighting foams and chemical hair relaxers, the lawsuits represent a major breakthrough in the public’s effort to hold prominent manufacturers accountable and guarantee the safety of their water supplies, hair salons, and households. 

The Endocrine System and EDCs

The endocrine system is a vast anatomical structure encompassing various glands and organs that regulate the body’s hormones. It serves a crucial role in important phases of human growth and maturation and is chiefly responsible for maintaining the body’s hormonal homeostasis. 

When a group of toxic substances known as endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs) interfere with the body’s hormonal balance, however, they can greatly interrupt reproductive health, pubescence, and metabolic activities. 

Depending on the substance, EDCs can mimic, block, or inhibit naturally occurring hormones in the human body, and may even increase an individual’s risk of developing hormonal cancers. Unfortunately, endocrine disruptors are ubiquitous in 21st-century America, and the public encounters them not only in common consumer products but through the air, food, and ambient environment.  

Although additional research is needed to confirm a growing consensus on the risks they pose to populations around the globe, adverse health associated with EDCs include: 

  • Fertility complications 
  • Genital abnormalities 
  • Metabolic dysfunction
  • Hormonal cancers
  • Diabetes and obesity

Common Endocrine Disruptors in the United States

One can discover endocrine disruptors in anything from plastic containers and older Teflon cookware to personal care items and sunscreen. On account of the lax regulatory landscape in the U.S., companies have utilized hundreds of EDCs to lengthen the shelf life of their products and manufacture high-demand goods for decades. 

Now, a growing number of scientific studies indicate that they are responsible for a bevy of severe and potentially lethal medical complications. Some of the most common EDCs threatening the health of Americans include: 

Per and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS)

PFAS are a group of nearly 12,000 fluorinated chemicals composed of potent carbon bonds. They can remain in the environment for decades and bioaccumulate in living organisms, earning the toxic substances the moniker of “forever chemicals”. 

Many PFAS possess not only carcinogenic qualities but endocrinological effects, including: 

  • Thyroid complications
  • Abnormal breast development
  • Disrupted fetal development 

Trichloroethylene (TCE)

TCE is a common industrial chemical and pollutant which has been detected in waterways and water supplies for decades. Despite federal regulations that restrict permissible exposure limits (PELs), communities still contend with the health effects of the ubiquitous substance. 

Clinical research has primarily concentrated on the carcinogenic qualities of TCE, but an important 2018 study in Environmental Science Technology observed the potential connection between TCE overexposure and hormonal complications, such as:

Perchloroethylene (PCE)

A frequent degreaser and dry cleaning chemical, tetrachloroethylene (PCE) poses a variety of serious health risks to workers across multiple industries. Although it is known to cause liver complications and may be a human carcinogen, recent clinical research indicates PCE’s additional endocrine disrupting potential. 

In fact, the president of the Endocrine Society published an open letter to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in July 2020, urging it to account for hormonal effects PCE has on the human body, including: 

  • Manipulation of estrogen receptors
  • Gene expression in uterine cells
  • Endogenous gene expression

Vinyl Chloride 

Vinyl chloride is a critical element in the production of polyvinyl chloride, which is commonly used for automotive parts and construction materials. Exposure frequently occurs through inhalation, but the gradual degradation of this chlorinated solvent can lead to the contamination of ground and drinking water. 

Like most other EDCs, vinyl chloride has adverse health effects on a variety of anatomical systems, and can result in:


Toluene is a toxic and colorless liquid which can be found in nail polish, gasoline, paints, and solvents. In contrast to other EDCs, toluene overexposure can occur in places as innocuous as nail salons. 

Nevertheless, its health impacts can be just as extensive and severe as properly industrial chemicals, and include : 

  • Hormone alterations
  • Decreased sperm count
  • Birth defects


Phthalates are very common endocrine disruptors used in the production and preservation of popular consumer goods and personal care items, like hair straighteners. As potent endocrine disruptors, phthalates can drastically alter the body’s natural hormonal balance, causing thyroid complications and neurological disorders. 

In more severe cases, phthalates may even result in life-altering or life-threatening conditions, such as:

Bisphenol A (BPA)

Large swaths of the American public are aware of the risks of BPA use, prompting some companies to advertise their “BPA-free” and organic chemical formulae. This widespread endocrine disruptor mimics naturally occurring estrogen, and commonly enters the body through dermal exposure, inhalation, and ingestion. 

Although inventors have introduced a variety of technologies to neutralize BPA levels in the environment, BPA’s ubiquity in consumer products increases the potential for future health crises, involving: 

  • Accelerated puberty
  • Decreased sperm count
  • Breast cancer

Formaldehyde (FA)

Formaldehyde is classified as a known human carcinogen which can be found in curtains, glues, pesticides, and cosmetic goods. However, FA is commonly used in chemical hair straighteners, which have been increasingly connected to serious endocrinologic complications in long-term users. 

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) even went so far as to propose a ban on hair relaxers that contain formaldehyde as a central or high-volume ingredient. The October 2023 proposal was the first considerable federal response to clinical research and state-level legislative campaigns that addressed formaldehyde’s potential to cause: 

  • Fertility complications 
  • Heightened risk of miscarriage
  • Menstrual disorders


Widely used since the 1920s, parabens are chemical preservatives that prolong the shelf life of popular personal care products. Unfortunately, long-term use of cosmetics that contain parabens has been linked to a heightened risk of several severe health complications, including:

  • Breast cancer risk 
  • Thyroid dysfunction
  • Reproduction complications

The FDA has not specifically targeted parabens for any bans or restrictions, but the agency is currently fielding reports, tips, and research to answer critical questions about the safety of parabens in cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, and food products. 

Product Liability and Toxic Substance Lawsuits Involving EDCs Surge

As researchers and regulators determine the extent of EDC contamination, manufacturers have confronted a series of high-profile product liability lawsuits. Fundamentally, the litigation alleges that the producers of EDC-containing products knew or should have known of the risks they posed to human health, but failed to warn consumers and users. 

AFFF Firefighting Foam Lawsuits 

Aqueous film-forming foam was once a miracle flame suppressant employed to extinguish unmanageable petroleum fires. In use since the 1960s, AFFF became a staple product in the military, airports, and municipal firehouses. 

Unfortunately, AFFF contains high volumes of various PFAS, which have contaminated the groundwater and water supplies of site-adjacent communities and environments. As a result, prominent AFFF manufacturers like Dupont and 3M are currently battling a series of AFFF firefighting foam lawsuits in federal court. 

After the creation of a multidistrict litigation to process thousands of individual claims, municipal water suppliers settled various AFFF lawsuits with 3M Company and DuPont Nemours for $10.3 and $1.18 billion, respectively. The subsequent and ongoing wave of AFFF product liability lawsuits primarily represents the claims and complaints of individuals who sustained severe occupational injuries from AFFF use. 

Chemical Hair Relaxer Lawsuits

Although the FDA intends to promulgate new hair relaxer regulations by 2024, long-term users of the popular cosmetic products have filed numerous product liability lawsuits against their manufacturers. The chemical hair relaxer lawsuits allege that producers and distributors failed to inform consumers of the risks they incurred from EDC ingredients, such as:

  • Phthalates
  • Bisphenol A (BPA)
  • Formaldehyde
  • Parabens

As a result, plaintiffs assert that they developed a variety of medical complications including uterine cancer, endometriosis, and breast cancer. In February 2023, select plaintiffs convinced the U.S. Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation (JPML) to consolidate cases for pretrial proceedings in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois. 

Endocrine Disruptors Found in Water Supply at Camp Lejeune 

Camp Lejeune is a Marine Corps Base (MCB) located in Onslow County, North Carolina. Opened in 1941, its water supplies were uniquely susceptible to the irresponsible disposal of numerous toxic substances from nearby industrial facilities. 

From the early 1950s to the mid-1980s, hundreds of thousands of Camp Lejeune residents unknowingly sustained dangerous exposures to select endocrine disruptors, including:

  • Vinyl chloride
  • Tetrachloroethylene (PCE)
  • Trichloroethylene 
  • PFAS

After years of lobbying and suffering, the victims of Camp Lejeune toxic chemical exposure succeeded in convincing Congress to address their plight in the PACT Act of 2022. Aside from expanding access to disability benefits from the VA and compensation from the Department of the Navy (DON), the PACT Act also established the legal pretext for veterans and their descendants to file suit against the United States government. 

Currently, there are nearly 1,200 individual Camp Lejeune lawsuits participating in a federal action centered in the U.S. District Court for the District of North Carolina. 

Common Damages in Litigation Involving EDCs

In civil litigation, plaintiffs have the opportunity to seek financial compensation for the losses they sustained on account of another’s negligence. Although the various EDC-related lawsuits address unique injuries, the medical complications and emotional distress caused by toxic substance exposure often translate into similar damages, including:

  • Medical costs – past, present, and future
  • Lost wages and income 
  • Pain and suffering
  • Mental anguish
  • Decreased quality of life
  • Loss of consortium 

For more information about the compensation to which you may be entitled, consider speaking with a qualified toxic chemical lawyer today. 

Contact an Experienced Toxic Substance Exposure Lawyer for Your Claim Today

The recent legal developments involving endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs) stand to have a profound impact on the regulatory landscape of toxic substances in American markets. Moreover, the growing awareness of the remarkable extent of EDC pollution throughout the country has already prompted a tidal wave of clinical research, consumer skepticism, legislative campaigns, and decontamination efforts. 

Nevertheless, the irresponsible business practices of major producers and distributors of EDC goods have already endangered countless populations throughout the country. That is why our qualified toxic chemical lawyers are on standby to provide advice and deliver results. 

In a free consultation, we can explain the eligibility of your claims and assist you in making the best decision to ensure your health and peace of mind. Although the titanic manufacturers of products containing EDCs are preparing to fight adversarial lawsuits with the best of legal teams – so can you.  


Matthew Dolman

Personal Injury Lawyer

This article was written and reviewed by Matthew Dolman. Matt has been a practicing civil trial, personal injury, products liability, and mass tort lawyer since 2004. He has represented over 11,000 injury victims and has served as lead counsel in over 1000 lawsuits. Matt is a lifetime member of the Million Dollar Advocates Forum and Multi-Million Dollar Advocates Forum for resolving individual cases in excess of $1 million and $2 million, respectively. He has also been selected by his colleagues as a Florida Superlawyer and as a member of Florida’s Legal Elite on multiple occasions. Further, Matt has been quoted in the media numerous times and is a sought-after speaker on a variety of legal issues and topics.

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