Why Autoimmune Thyroid Disorders Are On The Rise

By Elaine Moore

Fluoride, stain repellants, non-stick cookware, rocket fuel, mercury and other chemicals are known to trigger autoimmune thyroid disease (AITD).

Autoimmune thyroid disorders are caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors. That is, people with certain immune system genes are susceptible to developing thyroid disorders when they’re exposed to certain environmental triggers. Up to 20 percent of the population have these genes although only about 4 percent of the population develop AITD.

Environmental agents have cumulative effects. Over time, these chemicals burden and weaken the immune system, eventually diminishing its effectiveness. Instead of carrying out its normal defensive functions, the immune system becomes confused and strikes out at thyroid cells. This leads to the production of thyroid antibodies. Depending on the specific subtype, thyroid antibodies can destroy thyroid cells, cause thyroid inflammation or cause thyroid cells to produce excess thyroid hormone.

PFOA is a pervasive industrial chemical used as a stain, grease, and water repellant in clothing, fabrics, carpeting and sofas; wire coating; chemical-resistant tubing; and as a non-sticking agent in cookware. PFOA has become so pervasive in recent years that it’s found in water supplies and in wildlife, including fish, birds and polar bears.

Several studies have previously shown that PFOA in non-stick cookware can trigger autoimmune thyroid disease. A recent study at the University of Exeter and the Peninsula Medical School shows that people with the highest levels of PFOA in their blood have the greatest incidence of thyroid disease.

The study was conducted on 3,966 adults who participated in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) between 1999 and 2006. Blood samples from these subjects were tested for PFOA and related perfluoroalkyl compounds. Individuals with levels as high as 7.5 ng/ml were twice as likely to have thyroid disease than individuals with the lowest PFOA levels (less than 0.4 ng/ml). The study was unable to determine if people with thyroid disease might also have higher levels because of metabolic differences or abnormalities in their abilities to detoxify toxins.


Perchlorate is another pervasive synthetic chemical used in rocket fuel, road flares, fireworks, and fertilizers found to disrupt thyroid function. In 2006 the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in Atlanta reported that traces of perchlorate from rocket fuel have been found in milk, fruit, vegetables, beer, wine and dairy products. Perchlorate has anti-thyroid properties and is especially dangerous to pregnant women and individuals predisposed toward hypothyroidism. In a CDC study conducted on 3,000 Americans, all subjects had trace levels of perchlorate with an average urine level of 5.5 parts per billion.


Fluoride added to water and dental products is another trigger for AITD. Furthermore, like chloride and lithium, fluoride is able to displace iodine, contributing to hypothyroidism.

Mercury, Nickel and Other Metals

Mercury and nickel have been found to trigger autoimmune thyroid disorders and other autoimmune disorders such as systemic lupus. In recent studies, Czech researchers have proven that levels of both TPO and thyroglobulin antibodies, which are seen in both Hashimoto's thyroiditis and Graves' disease, decline in people who have had dental fillings removed. Replacement of amalgam in mercury-allergic subjects resulted in improvement of health in about 70 percent of patients. Several laboratory parameters such as mercury-specific lymphocyte responses in vitro and anti-thyroid autoantibodies were also normalized. In contrast, no changes in health or laboratory results were observed in mercury-allergic patients who did not have their amalgams replaced. ♦

© 6 Dec 2011 2006 Copyrighted by Elaine Moore


Delicate Balance, Environmental Effects on the Thyroid. September, 2002. Environmental health Perspectives; 111(12): 642-9.

Thyroid Disease and Chemicals: Stain Repellent Chemical Linked to Thyroid Disease In Adults. November, 2010. Health and Goodness.

Hybenova M, Hrda P, Procházková J, Stejskal V, Sterzl I. The role of environmental factors in autoimmune thyroiditis. Neuro Endocrinol Lett. 2010;31(3):283-9


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