On the rumors about the silent spring. Review of the scientific evidence linking occupational and environmental pesticide exposure to endocrine disruption health effects

Cad Saude Publica. 2002 Mar-Apr;18(2):379-402. doi: 10.1590/s0102-311x2002000200003. Epub 2002 Aug 16.


Occupational exposure to some pesticides, and particularly DBCP and chlordecone, may adversely affect male fertility. However, apart from the therapeutic use of diethylstilbestrol, the threat to human reproduction posed by "endocrine disrupting" environmental contaminants has not been supported by epidemiological evidence thus far. As it concerns other endocrine effects described in experimental animals, only thyroid inhibition following occupational exposure to amitrole and mancozeb has been confirmed in humans. Cancer of the breast, endometrium, ovary, prostate, testis, and thyroid are hormone-dependent, which fostered research on the potential risk associated with occupational and environmental exposure to the so-called endocrine-disrupting pesticides. The most recent studies have ruled out the hypothesis of DDT derivatives as responsible for excess risks of cancer of the reproductive organs. Still, we cannot exclude a role for high level exposure to o,p'-DDE, particularly in post-menopausal ER+ breast cancer. On the other hand, other organochlorine pesticides and triazine herbicides require further investigation for a possible etiologic role in some hormone-dependent cancers.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Carbamates / adverse effects
  • Endocrine System / drug effects*
  • Endocrine System Diseases / etiology*
  • Endocrine System Diseases / metabolism
  • Enzyme Inhibitors / adverse effects
  • Evidence-Based Medicine
  • Female
  • Fungicides, Industrial / adverse effects
  • Humans
  • Insecticides / adverse effects
  • Male
  • Neoplasms / etiology
  • Occupational Exposure / adverse effects*
  • Pesticides / adverse effects*
  • Reproduction / drug effects*
  • Risk Assessment


  • Carbamates
  • Enzyme Inhibitors
  • Fungicides, Industrial
  • Insecticides
  • Pesticides