Nitrate: An Environmental Endocrine Disruptor? A Review of Evidence and Research Needs

Environ Sci Technol. 2018 Apr 3;52(7):3869-3887. doi: 10.1021/acs.est.7b06419. Epub 2018 Mar 13.


Nitrate is heavily used as an agricultural fertilizer and is today a ubiquitous environmental pollutant. Environmental endocrine effects caused by nitrate have received increasing attention over the last 15 years. Nitrate is hypothesized to interfere with thyroid and steroid hormone homeostasis and developmental and reproductive end points. The current review focuses on aquatic ecotoxicology with emphasis on field and laboratory controlled in vitro and in vivo studies. Furthermore, nitrate is just one of several forms of nitrogen that is present in the environment and many of these are quickly interconvertible. Therefore, the focus is additionally confined to the oxidized nitrogen species (nitrate, nitrite and nitric oxide). We reviewed 26 environmental toxicology studies and our main findings are (1) nitrate has endocrine disrupting properties and hypotheses for mechanisms exist, which warrants for further investigations; (2) there are issues determining actual nitrate-speciation and abundance is not quantified in a number of studies, making links to speciation-specific effects difficult; and (3) more advanced analytical chemistry methodologies are needed both for exposure assessment and in the determination of endocrine biomarkers.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Endocrine Disruptors*
  • Environmental Pollutants*
  • Nitrates
  • Nitrites
  • Reproduction


  • Endocrine Disruptors
  • Environmental Pollutants
  • Nitrates
  • Nitrites