Inadvertent exposure to xenoestrogens in children

Toxicol Ind Health. 1999 Jan-Mar;15(1-2):151-8. doi: 10.1191/074823399678846682.


This article reviews previous studies and presents new data on pesticide exposure in order to provide some indications of the extent and significance of childhood exposure to xenoestrogens, including pesticides, epoxy resins, and polycarbonates. After more than four decades of pesticide use, little is known about their adverse effects on health. There is a need to address the potential risks associated with the current contamination of water, soils, and foods in many agricultural areas. In southeastern Spain, along the Mediterranean coast, extensive areas alongside residential zones are devoted to intensive farming in plastic greenhouses, with the use of large amounts of pesticides. Human tissue samples have been investigated for pesticide residues. Samples of fat from children living in farm areas contained a total of 14 pesticides, including lindane, HCH, heptachlor, aldrin, dieldrin, endrin, endosulfan, o,p'-DDE, and o,p'-DDD, among others. Of the 113 samples studied, 43 were positive for one or more pesticides, some of which have estrogenic activity. The number of new substances that mimic the action of endogenous estrogens is increasing rapidly. These endocrine-disrupting chemicals are not restricted to pesticides. Several different compounds used in the food industry, in plasticizers, and in dental restorations are also estrogenic. The few studies that have investigated their effects in humans all indicate that concerns are warranted. If there is indeed an association between zexposure to substances with hormone-disruptive activity and certain disorders of sexual maturation, the incidence of such disorders should be greater in areas where exposure to agents with this activity is high. We used a spatial ecological design to search for variations in orchidopexy rates and to analyze relationships between these differences and geographical variations in exposure to pesticides. Our results are compatible with a hypothetical association between exposure to hormone-disruptive chemicals and the induction of cryptorchidism. Several methodological limitations in the study design make it necessary to evaluate the results with caution. In conclusion, a closer scrutiny is required to determine whether epoxy resins and polycarbonates contribute, together with estrogenic pesticides, to the exposure of human consumers, especially children, to xenoestrogens.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adipose Tissue / chemistry
  • Agriculture
  • Body Burden
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cryptorchidism / chemically induced
  • Endocrine System / drug effects
  • Environmental Exposure / analysis*
  • Estrogens / adverse effects
  • Estrogens / analysis*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Industry
  • Male
  • Population Surveillance
  • Risk Assessment
  • Spain
  • Xenobiotics / adverse effects
  • Xenobiotics / analysis*


  • Estrogens
  • Xenobiotics