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Eur J Endocrinol. 2006 May;154(5):599-611.

Environmental chemicals and thyroid function.

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University Department of Growth and Reproduction GR-5064, Copenhagen Denmark.


There is growing evidence that environmental chemicals can disrupt endocrine systems. Most evidence originates from studies on reproductive organs. However, there is also suspicion that thyroid homeostasis may be disrupted. Several groups of chemicals have potential for thyroid disruption. There is substantial evidence that polychlorinated biphenyls, dioxins and furans cause hypothyroidism in exposed animals and that environmentally occurring doses affect human thyroid homeostasis. Similarly, flame retardants reduce peripheral thyroid hormone (TH) levels in rodents, but human studies are scarce. Studies also indicate thyroid-disruptive properties of phthalates, but the effect of certain phthalates seems to be stimulative on TH production, contrary to most other groups of chemicals. Thyroid disruption may be caused by a variety of mechanisms, as different chemicals interfere with the hypothalamic-pituitary-thyroid axis at different levels. Mechanisms of action may involve the sodium-iodide symporter, thyroid peroxidase enzyme, receptors for THs or TSH, transport proteins or cellular uptake mechanisms. The peripheral metabolism of the THs can be affected through effects on iodothyronine deiodinases or hepatic enzymes. Even small changes in thyroid homeostasis may adversely affect human health, and especially fetal neurological development may be vulnerable. It is therefore urgent to clarify whether the animal data showing effects of chemicals on thyroid function can be extended to humans.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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