Endocrine disrupting chemicals are linked to a wide range of health problems

Because correct hormone signalling is integral to the healthy functioning of the body, EDCs can have a wide range of potential health effects. Timing of exposure is as important as dose, as hormones play vital roles not only in maintaining the state of the body, but also the development of vital organs during foetal and childhood growth. The foetus, infant and adolescent are those considered to be at greatest risk of harm from EDCs.

Reproductive health: Male fertility and physical abnormalities of the male reproductive tract such as malformations of the penis and undescended testicles have been linked with exposure to chemicals, such as some phthalates, which inhibit the action of testosterone during foetal development.

Cancer: Endocrine disruptors can interfere with biological pathways involved in the initiation and progression of cancer and also re-programme organs so they are more likely to become cancerous later in life. For example, man-made oestrogens are thought to be involved in breast cancer development.

Obesity: Exposure to EDCs could also make worse the effects of energy imbalances between diet and exercise, resulting in greater risk of obesity and obesity-related disorders such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

Immune system function, cognitive function and behavioural disorders, as well as increase in cardiovascular diseases, have also been linked with endocrine disruption.