Endocrine-disrupting chemicals and have been the topic of numerous studies, but additional studies are needed to determine whether there is a link between the chemicals and child development, according to one researcher.
John D. Meeker, ScD, associate professor of environmental health sciences and associate chair of environmental health sciences at the University of Michigan, School of Public Health, wrote a review published in the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine discussing adverse effects of endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs), calling for more research on the issue.
“Once inside the body, EDCs can affect the endocrine system through a multitude of specific mechanisms that can target different levels of the hypothalamic-pituitary-gonad, thyroid, and adrenal axes, ranging from effects on hormone receptors to effects on hormone synthesis, secretion, or metabolism; therefore, they can have far-reaching health implications throughout the life course,” Meeker wrote.
Bisphenol A has come under the media microscope recently, but Meeker said other EDCs such as persistent organic pollutants, phthalates, contemporary-use pesticides and chemicals, including parabens, triclosan, perchlorate, alternative brominated and chlorinated flame retardants, and fluorinated organic compounds such as perfluorooctane octanoate and perfluorooctane sulfonate should be studied further.
Meeker said there is inconsistent evidence linking reduced birth weight with exposure to persistent organic pollutants, organophosphate insecticides and triazine herbicides. However, several studies have been conducted to assess the relationship between the EDCs and fetal growth and gestation duration.
“Because study designs and results have varied across studies, for most EDCs it is currently difficult to conclude whether a relationship exists between exposure and birth weight,” he wrote.
Meeker said male reproductive tract development, pubertal development, neurodevelopment and obesity are all areas of concern when it comes to EDC exposure. He encourages clinicians to consult with other physicians or professionals in the environmental and occupational health field to address potential risks for environmental-related health conditions.
“A growing body of evidence shows that exposure to a number of chemicals may adversely affect child development through altered endocrine function. However, many of the potential exposure-response relationships described here have not been adequately explored,” Meeker concluded.
Disclosure: Dr. Meeker reports no relevant financial disclosures.