Toxicological characteristics of endocrine-disrupting chemicals: developmental toxicity, carcinogenicity, and mutagenicity

J Toxicol Environ Health B Crit Rev. Jan-Feb 2004;7(1):1-24. doi: 10.1080/10937400490253229.


It is generally accepted that endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs) play a role in a variety of adverse health effects in an intact organism or its progeny as a consequence of changes in the endocrine system. Primary toxic effects of EDCs were reported to be related to infertility, reduction in sperm count, and teratogenicity, but other important toxic effects of EDCs such as carcinogenicity and mutagenicity have also been demonstrated. The aim of the present study was to systematically analyze the toxicological characteristics of EDCs in pesticides, industrial chemicals, and metals. A comprehensive literature survey on the 48 EDCs classified by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) was conducted using a number of databases which included Medline, Toxline, and Toxnet. The survey results revealed that toxicological characteristics of EDCs were shown to produce developmental toxicity (81%), carcinogenicity (79%, when positive in at least one animal species; 48%, when classified based on IARC evaluation), mutagenicity (79%), immunotoxicity (52%), and neurotoxicity (50%). Regarding the hormone-modulating effects of the 48 EDCs, estrogenic effects were the most predominant in pesticides, while effects on thyroid hormone were found for heavy metals. EDCs showing estrogen-modulating effects were closely related to carcinogenicity or mutagenicity with a high degree of sensitivity. Systematic information on the toxicological characteristics of the EDCs will be useful for future research directions on EDCs, the development of new screening methods, legal regulation, and for investigations of their mechanism of action.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Carcinogens / toxicity
  • Endocrine System / drug effects*
  • Environmental Pollutants / toxicity*
  • Humans
  • Immune System / drug effects
  • Metals / toxicity*
  • Mutagens / toxicity
  • Neurotoxicity Syndromes / etiology
  • Pesticides / toxicity*


  • Carcinogens
  • Environmental Pollutants
  • Metals
  • Mutagens
  • Pesticides