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Questions and Answers

  1. What are endocrine disruptors?
    • Endocrine disruptors are basically chemicals with the potential to interfere with the function of endocrine systems.
    • Endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) have been defined as exogenous agents that interfere with the production, release, transport, metabolism, binding, action, or elimination of the natural hormones in the body responsible for the maintenance of homeostasis and the regulation of developmental processes.
    • EDCs can include man-made chemicals such as pesticides and plasticizers, natural chemicals found in plants (phytoestrogens), pharmaceuticals, or hormones that are excreted in animal or human waste.
  2. Why does EPA conduct research on endocrine disruption?
    • Evidence suggests that environmental exposure to EDCs may cause adverse health effects in human and wildlife populations.
    • Considerable uncertainty exists regarding the relationship(s) between adverse health outcomes and exposure to environmental contaminants.
    • In 1996, through the enactment of the Food Quality Protection Act (FQPA), the U.S. Congress directed EPA to screen pesticides for estrogenic activity in humans using validated studies or other scientifically relevant information and gave the Agency discretionary authority to screen for other endocrine effects as well.
    • The Safe Drinking Water Act Amendments (SWDA) of 1996, authorized EPA to screen drinking water contaminants for similar activities.
    • EPA's endocrine research strives to improve our knowledge and understanding of endocrine disruptors in the environment so that we can improve our methods of assessment and risk management.
    • EPA's Endocrine Disruptor Research Program conducts both basic and applied research to develop the fundamental scientific principles used by the EPA program and regional offices in making risk assessment decisions.
  3. Is the combination of pharmaceuticals, fire retardants, pesticides, herbicides, insect repellants, estrogen derivatives, industrial solvents and other endocrine disruptors a concern for human health?
    • EPA labs are studying the effects of combinations of pesticides, toxic substances and some pharmaceuticals in the environment to determine how these chemicals interact and how to best predict the effects of chemical mixtures.

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