Endocrine disruption in wildlife: a critical review of the evidence

Crit Rev Toxicol. 1998 Jul;28(4):319-61. doi: 10.1080/10408449891344236.


In recent years, a number of man-made chemicals have been shown to be able to mimic endogenous hormones, and it has been hypothesized that alterations in the normal pattern of reproductive development seen in some populations of wildlife are linked with exposure to these chemicals. Of particular importance are those compounds that mimic estrogens and androgens (and their antagonists), because of their central role in reproductive function. In fact, the evidence showing that such chemicals actually do mimic (or antagonize) the action of hormones in the intact animal is limited. In only a few cases have laboratory studies shown that chemicals that mimic hormones at the molecular level (in vitro) also cause reproductive dysfunction in vivo at environmentally relevant concentrations. In addition, the reported studies on wild populations of animals are limited to a very few animal species and they have often centered on localized 'hot-spots' of chemical discharges. Nevertheless, many of these xenobiotics are persistent and accumulate in the environment, and therefore a more widespread phenomenon of endocrine disruption in wildlife is possible. This article reviews the evidence, from both laboratory and field studies, that exposure to steroid hormone mimics may impair reproductive function and critically assesses the weight of evidence for endocrine disruption in wildlife.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Androgens / pharmacology*
  • Animals
  • Animals, Wild*
  • Endocrine System / drug effects
  • Environmental Exposure
  • Estrogens / pharmacology*
  • Reproduction / drug effects
  • Xenobiotics / adverse effects*
  • Xenobiotics / pharmacology


  • Androgens
  • Estrogens
  • Xenobiotics