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Chemosphere. 1999 Oct;39(8):1293-300.

Problems in testing and risk assessment of endocrine disrupting chemicals with regard to developmental toxicology.

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Laboratory of Comparative Toxicology and Ecotoxicology, Istituto Superiore di Sanità, Rome, Italy.


Endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) may affect mammalian development either indirectly (by impairing implantation, placental development, lactation, etc.) or directly, altering the maturation of target tissues. Current regulatory tests for reproductive/developmental toxicity should be carefully evaluated with regard to risk assessment of EDCs, considering hazard identification (are relevant endpoints being assessed?) and dose-response assessment (are sensitive NOEL/dose-response curves being provided?). Many in vitro and in vivo assays for sex steroid disruption are available; provided that the metabolic capacities of the assays are defined, they could be integrated in a sensitive battery for early detection of steroid-disrupting potentials. The screening battery should address further regulatory in vivo tests (e.g. what specific parameters have to be investigated). As regards dose-response, qualitative differences may be observed between lower and higher exposures, showing primary hormone-related effects and frank embryotoxicity, respectively. Other problems concern (a) the identification of critical developmental windows, according to hormone concentrations and/or receptor levels in the developing target tissues; (b) the potential for interactions between chemicals with common mechanism/target (e.g. xenoestrogens); (c) most important, besides sex steroids more attention should be given to other mechanisms of endocrine disruption, e.g., thyroid effects, which can be highly relevant to prenatal and postnatal development.

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