Environmental exposures that affect the endocrine system: public health implications

J Toxicol Environ Health B Crit Rev. 1998 Jan-Mar;1(1):3-26. doi: 10.1080/10937409809524541.


In recent years much attention has been focused on the potential for a wide range of xenobiotic chemicals to interact with and disrupt the endocrine systems of animal and human populations. An overview of the chemicals that have been implicated as endocrine disruptors is presented. The ubiquity in the environment and associated body burdens of these chemicals in human populations are described. Potential mechanisms of action are reviewed, including the role of specific intracellular receptors and their interactions with endogenous and exogenous materials. The subsequent upregulation or downregulation of physiological processes at critical stages of development is discussed. The potential for joint toxic action and interaction of chemical mixtures is also discussed. The acknowledged role of wildlife populations as sentinels of potential human health effects is reviewed, and the weight of evidence for the role and impact of endocrine disruptors is presented. The implications of exposure to endocrine-disrupting chemicals for human health are reviewed, with special emphasis on the potential for transgenerational effects in at-risk populations. Recommendations for future research include the development of (1) structural activity and in vivo and in vitro functional toxicology methods to screen chemicals for their endocrine-disrupting ability, (2) biomarkers of exposure and effect, and (3) in situ sentinel systems.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biomarkers
  • Body Burden
  • Endocrine System / drug effects*
  • Environment
  • Environmental Exposure / adverse effects*
  • Environmental Health
  • Humans
  • Joints / drug effects
  • Milk / chemistry
  • Public Health
  • Structure-Activity Relationship
  • Xenobiotics / adverse effects*
  • Xenobiotics / pharmacology


  • Biomarkers
  • Xenobiotics