Endocrine-disrupting compounds: a review of their challenge to sustainable and safe water supply and water reuse

Environ Toxicol. 2006 Apr;21(2):181-91. doi: 10.1002/tox.20172.


The relevance of endocrine-disrupting compounds as potential contaminants of drinking water is reviewed, particularly in the reuse of wastewater. Growing populations and increasing intensification of land and water use for industry and agriculture have increased the need to reclaim wastewater for reuse, including to supplement the drinking water supply. The variety of anthropogenic chemicals that have been identified as potential endocrine disruptors in the environment and the problems arising from their use as human and livestock pharmaceuticals, as agricultural chemicals and in industry are discussed. The potentially adverse impact of these chemicals on human health and the ecology of the natural environment are reviewed. Data for the removal of estrogenic compounds from wastewater treatment are presented, together with the comparative potencies of estrogenic compounds. The relative exposure to estrogens of women on oral contraceptives, hormone replacement therapy, and through food consumption is estimated. A brief overview of some methods available or under development for the assessment of estrogenic activity in environmental samples is provided. The review concludes with a discussion of the directions for further investigation, which include human epidemiology, methodology development, and wastewater monitoring.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Australia
  • Conservation of Natural Resources
  • Endocrine Disruptors / analysis*
  • Endocrine Disruptors / toxicity
  • Environmental Monitoring / economics
  • Environmental Monitoring / methods
  • Estrogens / analysis
  • Europe
  • Humans
  • North America
  • Sewage / chemistry
  • Water / analysis
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical / analysis*
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical / toxicity
  • Water Purification / methods
  • Water Supply* / analysis
  • Water Supply* / standards


  • Endocrine Disruptors
  • Estrogens
  • Sewage
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical
  • Water