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Endocrine Disruptors

6. Conclusions

  • 6.1 What conclusions can be drawn concerning EDC effects in humans?
  • 6.2 What conclusions can be drawn concerning EDC effects in wildlife?
  • 6.3 What are the future research needs identified by the IPCS report?

Studies carried out to date have focused on North America and Europe, so conclusions about endocrine disrupting chemical (EDCs) effects worldwide cannot be drawn, especially not for developing countries where very little information is available. More...

6.1 What conclusions can be drawn concerning EDC effects in humans?

Although it is known from laboratory and wildlife studies that certain environmental chemicals can disrupt normal endocrine function, evidence suggesting that human health has been affected remains weak. There are some signs that humans are vulnerable to endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) at high levels of exposure, but effects from long-term and low-level EDC exposure have yet to be proven. This statement is not meant to downplay the potential effects of EDCs; rather, it highlights the need for more rigorous studies, especially those examining the possible effects from exposure to EDCs at sensitive stages in early life. More...

6.2 What conclusions can be drawn concerning EDC effects in wildlife?

Evidence about the effects of endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) on wildlife is more extensive than for humans, showing that EDCs have, indeed, harmed wildlife. Of course, the ability to study wildlife species both in the laboratory and in the field has been helpful.

Many of the studies showing adverse effects in wildlife have been undertaken in areas where pollution was reported to be high, particularly in aquatic ecosystems, where persistent environmental chemicals accumulate.

A big challenge in this area is to broaden the research to cover more thoroughly more species in the wild, and to develop a better understanding of their biology and their different endocrine systems. This way, more can be learned about the many species that could potentially be affected by EDCs. More...

6.3 What are the future research needs identified by the IPCS report?

It is clear that too little is known about the link between exposures to potential endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) and their effects on health – both humans and wildlife. Nevertheless, some progress has been made in identifying potential EDCs and studying the ways in which they work by using laboratory animals. Research has mainly focused on chemicals that persist in the environment and accumulate in living organisms, but less persistent chemicals also require attention. International collaboration is needed in some broad research areas, such as in:

  • understanding how endocrine disruption interferes with normal biological processes,
  • clarify the relationships between effects observed in the laboratory and those observed in the wild
  • developing improved methods for detecting EDCs,
  • increasing monitoring of organisms in the wild and monitoring of potentially relevant trends in human health,
  • identifying EDCs most likely to have substantial effects in populations at low environmental concentrations,
  • identifying any ‘hot spots’ of high exposure to EDCs,
  • investigating life stages or species that might be particularly vulnerable to EDCs, and
  • assembling global information on EDCs into usable and shared databases.

This research is a priority because of the endocrine system’ s key role in many aspects of normal human - and animal - development and function. More information about how EDC exposure may impair or damage this vital system is therefore paramount. More...


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