Maria Casamatta is an environmental scientist based in Vancouver, BC. Through years of experience restoring contaminated environments, she became interested in the effects of endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) on human health. She started Oliver when she learned that women are exposed to EDCs through personal care and cosmetics. Her mission with Oliver is to create a hormonally healthy future by creating products that are free of endocrine disrupting ingredients.
What’s the story behind Oliver? What got you interested in EDCs and prompted you to start this business?
In school I remember this one toxicology class where we learned that male frogs were turning female in the environment. The males were producing eggs because of a pesticide we were using. It really shocked me and made me pursue a career in ecological remediation (cleaning up environmental pollution). For years I worked on cleaning up large scale pipeline contamination, oil spills, chemical spills and other industrial contaminated sites.
It wasn’t until years later that it really clicked for me. A group of friends decided to have their testosterone levels checked for fun and the results came back much lower than expected for healthy men in their late 20s. I thought about the frogs and it made me look into the effects that EDCs are having on human health. Long story short, I learned that EDCs are all around us, even in the cosmetics we use every day.
Although we know a lot about certain EDCs like BPA and phthalates, there are many lesser known cosmetic ingredients that also have endocrine disrupting effects. For example, Lilial, which was banned in the EU earlier this year for being linked to infertility. We’ve used products with Lilial for decades. In my own bathroom I found 3 products that contained Lilial, and it’s still legal in the US and Canada.
I started Oliver to give women the confidence that the products they’re putting on their bodies aren’t messing with their hormones. At Oliver, we create products that are free of all known or suspected EDCs.
What harms can EDCs cause? Why should we care about them?
EDCs have been linked to a number of women’s hormonal health concerns including infertility, PCOS, endometriosis, thyroid conditions and certain hormonal cancers.
There are certain times in a woman's life where she should really try to avoid EDCs, like before and during pregnancy, and breastfeeding. These are considered vulnerable developmental windows where both the mother and baby are relying on a delicate balance of hormones for proper development.
A pregnant woman’s exposure to EDCs affects three generations. Herself, her child and her grandchild. This is because when EDCs cross the placental barrier, the fetus is exposed, and inside the fetus are the germ cells that will become her eggs or his sperm as they develop. It’s believed that the generational effects of EDCs are contributing to the decline in fertility we’re seeing with each generation.
What are some surprising places EDCs exist that you wouldn’t expect to find them?
I didn’t expect to find EDCs in my period products. Tampons, pads and period underwear can contain EDCs such as phthalates, BPA and PFAS. And it makes sense if you think of all the materials that go into making these products flexible, comfortable and leak-proof. PFAS make products moisture-wicking and stain resistant, which is why they’re perfect in period underwear. Phthalates make plastics soft and flexible, so they’re great in pads and pantyliners.
I was also surprised to find EDCs in my clothing. Again, because they create a waterproof finish, they can be found in outdoor gear like raincoats. Which isn’t great when you live in Vancouver!
What are some simple swaps that people can make in their personal care or home routines to reduce their EDC exposure?
It’s important to know that we can’t avoid all exposure to EDCs. But we can control what we bring into our own homes.
Start with products that spend the most time touching your skin. Swap out your skincare, makeup and laundry detergent for options that are fragrance and endocrine disrupting chemical free.
Try to remove as much plastic as possible from your kitchen. Swap your plastic tupperware for glass, your plastic cooking utensils for stainless steel and avoid eating canned foods. If possible, try to avoid non-stick cookware, which likely contains PFAS.
Cleaning products are another easy swap to make. Opt for products that are fragrance free and don’t contain any warning or caution signs.
What are you favourite/trustowrthy brands when it comes to EDC-free products?
I love and personally use Branch Basics for cleaning my home, Aisle for period products, ILIA and Saie makeup, and Oliver skincare of course!