The effects of metals as endocrine disruptors

J Toxicol Environ Health B Crit Rev. 2009 Mar;12(3):206-23. doi: 10.1080/10937400902902062.


This review reports current knowledge regarding the roles that cadmium (Cd), mercury (Hg), arsenic (As), lead (PB), manganese (Mn), and zinc (Zn) play as endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs). The influence of these metals on the endocrine system, possible mechanisms of action, and consequent health effects were correlated between experimental animals and humans. Analysis of the studies prompted us to identify some critical issues related to this area and showed the need for more rigorous and innovative studies. Consequently, it was recommended that future studies need to: (1) identify the mechanisms of action, because at the present time only a few have been elucidated-in this context, the possible presence of hormesis need to be determined, as currently this was reported only for exposure Cd and As; (2) study the possible additive, synergistic, or antagonistic effects on the endocrine system following exposure to a mixture of metals since there is a lack of these studies available, and in general or occupational environments, humans are simultaneously exposed to different classes of xenobiotics, including metals, but also to organic compounds that might also be EDCs; (3) assess the potential adverse effects on the endocrine system of low-level exposures to metals, as most of the information currently available on EDCs originates from studies in which exposure levels were particularly high; and (4) assess the effects on the endocrine and reproductive systems of other metals that are present in the general and occupational environment that have not yet been evaluated.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Animals, Laboratory
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Drug Interactions
  • Endocrine Disruptors / toxicity*
  • Endocrine System / drug effects*
  • Environmental Exposure / adverse effects*
  • Humans
  • Metals, Heavy / toxicity*
  • Reproduction / drug effects
  • Reproduction / physiology


  • Endocrine Disruptors
  • Metals, Heavy