Endocrine Disruption: Fact or Urban Legend

CJ Nohynek, CJ Borgert, D Dietrich, KK Rozman
Endocrine disruptors (EDs) are substances that cause adverse health effects via endocrine-mediated mechanisms in an intact organism or its progeny or (sub) populations. Purported EDCs in personal care products include 4-MBC (UV filter) or parabens that showed oestrogenic activity in screening tests, although regulatory toxicity studies showed no adverse effects on reproductive endpoints. Hormonal potency is the key issue of the safety of EDCs. Oestrogen-based drugs, e.g. the contraceptive pill or the synthetic oestrogen DES, possess potencies up to 7 orders of magnitude higher than those of PCP ingredients; yet, in utero exposure to these drugs did not adversely affect fertility or sexual organ development of offspring unless exposed to extreme doses. Additive effects of EDs are unlikely due to the multitude of mechanisms how substances may produce a hormone-like activity; even after uptake of different substances with a similar mode of action, the possibility of additive effects is reduced by different absorption, metabolism and kinetics. This is supported by a number of studies on mixtures of chemical EDCs. Overall, despite of 20 years of research a human health risk from exposure to low concentrations of exogenous chemical substances with weak hormone-like activities remains an unproven and unlikely hypothesis.