Endocrine disruptive chemicals (EDCs) cause adverse health effects through interaction with endocrine systems. They are classified by chemical structure, effects on specific endocrine systems, bioaccumulation, persistence in the environment, or clinically observable effects. For research of the complex mechanisms of action in the human body, only in vitro model systems have so far been available, that have insufficient high-throughput capacity, which makes risk evaluation more difficult. In addition, in industrial nations, living people are often exposed to mixtures of substances, with various effects. The clinical importance of epigenetic changes caused by the action of EDCs during vulnerable phases of development is currently unclear. Epidemiological studies are criticized because reproducibility is not always guaranteed. Nevertheless, they remain the method of choice for the development and analysis of suitable model systems. Positive associations, in spite of sometimes conflicting results, are key in the selection of factors that can then be analysed in model systems in an unbiased way. This article depicts the mainly positive epidemiological findings for EDC-caused effects in the fields of growth and metabolism, neurocognitive development and sexual development and reproduction. As a result, there is a need for closer linkage between epidemiological studies and mechanistic research into model systems, especially focusing on the interaction of different EDCs and the consequences of prenatal and early life exposure.
Keywords: Endocrine disruptors; Epidemiology; Model systems; Receptor binding; Risk assessment.