Endocrine disrupters: a human risk?

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Colleges, School and Institutes


Endocrine disrupters (EDs) alter normal hormonal regulation and may be naturally occurring or environmental contaminants. Classically, EDs act genomically, with agonistic or antagonistic effects on steroid receptors and may alter reproductive function and/or cause feminisation by binding to oestrogen or androgen receptors; their binding to the thyroid receptor may dysregulate the neuroendocrine system. Recently, it has been shown that EDs can also act by non-genomic mechanisms, altering steroid synthesis (inhibition of cytochrome P450 isoforms) or steroid metabolism. The alkylphenol and phthalate plasticisers inhibit the inactivation of oestrogens by sulphation (via SULT 1A1 and 1E1 isoforms) and so cause a rise in levels of the free active endogenous oestrogens. A range of ED effects have been shown in mammals, fish, birds, reptiles, amphibia and aquatic invertebrates but it is not yet clear whether these processes also occur in human beings. It is evident that EDs, as well as altering reproduction, can cause changes in neurosteroid levels and so have the potential to affect immune function, behaviour and memory. This may be of long-term concern since traces of EDs such as plasticisers, brominated fire retardants, sunscreen agents and cosmetic ingredients are widely distributed in the environment and in human biofluids. (c) 2005 Elsevier Ireland Ltd. All rights reserved.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2-9
Number of pages8
JournalMolecular and Cellular Endocrinology
Issue number1-2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2005


  • plasticiser, thyroid, androgens, oestrogens, endocrine disrupters