Endocrine-disrupting chemicals and human growth and maturation: a focus on early critical windows of exposure

Vitam Horm. 2014;94:1-25. doi: 10.1016/B978-0-12-800095-3.00001-8.


Endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs) are exogenous substances that interfere with hormone synthesis, metabolism, or action. In addition, some of them could cause epigenetic alterations of DNA that can be transmitted to the following generations. Because the developing organism is highly dependent on sex steroids and thyroid hormones for its maturation, the fetus and the child are very sensitive to any alteration of their hormonal environment. An additional concern about that early period of life comes from the shaping of the homeostatic mechanisms that takes place also at that time with involvement of epigenetic mechanisms along with the concept of fetal origin of health and disease. In this chapter, we will review the studies reporting effects of EDCs on human development. Using a translational approach, we will review animal studies that can shed light on some mechanisms of action of EDCs on the developing organism. We will focus on the major hormone-dependent stages of development: fetal growth, sexual differentiation, puberty, brain development, and energy balance. We will also discuss the possible epigenetic effects of EDCs on human development.

Keywords: Bisphenol A; Brain development; Cognitive function; Energy balance; Epigenetics; Fetal growth; Polychlorinated biphenyls; Puberty; Sex differentiation.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adolescent Development / drug effects*
  • Adult
  • Animals
  • Child
  • Child Development / drug effects*
  • Endocrine Disruptors / toxicity*
  • Environmental Pollutants / toxicity*
  • Female
  • Fetal Development / drug effects*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Pregnancy
  • Sexual Maturation / drug effects*


  • Endocrine Disruptors
  • Environmental Pollutants