Endocrine-Disrupting Chemicals: Health Threat Grows

There seems to be little doubt that toxic chemicals in our food, food packaging, general environment, water and personal care and home care products are having a serious adverse impact on our health and well-being.  After reviewing hundreds of peer-reviewed scientific studies researches have now concluded that a growing number of chemicals in pesticides, flame retardants, and certain plastics have been linked to widespread health problems including infertility, diabetes, and impaired brain development.  Exposure to certain chemicals found in industrial and household goods has also been linked in new studies to obesity; to endometriosis, a painful and abnormal growth of tissue on the outside of the womb; and to polycystic ovary syndrome, a significant cause of infertility.

Study overview

A team of environmental health experts analyzed research published in the past five years on endocrine disrupting chemicals, as well as American and European policies to regulate them. These chemicals are believed to interfere with the function of hormones, signaling compounds made in glands that circulate to influence processes throughout the body.  The new reports focused on “chemicals of concern,” endocrine disruptors common in industrial and household goods. These include perfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), toxins found in non-stick pans and waterproof clothing, and bisphenols, substances used in many plastics and can linings.

Results overview

The recent reviews add 17 ties between certain medical conditions and endocrine disrupting chemicals to a list of 15 others already identified by a 2015 joint investigation led by the United Nations and the World Health Organization. For example, new findings suggest that PFAS, bisphenols, and certain pesticides may damage semen.

In addition, the review identifies numerous new studies that link brain-related health concerns, such as IQ loss and attention deficit disorder (ADD), to flame retardants and chemicals found in certain pesticides.

The Problem is Systemic

The team’s policy review found a lack of a consistent definition of endocrine disruptors across countries.

Additionally, the authors are concerned that current U.S. regulations are based only on exposure to large doses of chemicals, not small, everyday doses over many years, even though recent findings demonstrate that such chemicals are cumulatively dangerous at low levels.

“These newer studies have strengthened the evidence linking endocrine disruptors to physical and especially neurological health issues.

“Our review of American and European policies argues that current regulations meant to reduce exposure to this class of chemicals are falling short. While further research is needed to more firmly establish cause and effect, urgent action is needed now because the public is already paying the costs through serious and long-lasting health problems.”

-Dr. Linda Kahn, MPH, PhD, postdoctoral fellow, Department of Pediatrics, NYU Langone Health


Journal Reference:  Kahn, L., et al. Endocrine-disrupting chemicals: implications for human health, Lancet Diabetes and Endocrinology Journal, Series|Endocrine-disrupting chemicals| Volume 8, ISSUE 8, P703-718, August 01, 2020,

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/S2213-8587(20)30129-7

Lay source: As Evidence of ‘Hormone Disruptor’ Chemical Threats Grows, Experts Call for Stricter Regulation, NYU Langone Health / NYU School of Medicine. “Evidence of ‘hormone disruptor’ chemical threats grows.” ScienceDaily, 21 July 2020.