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Some chemicals implicated so far

This page outlines some of the chemicals which have been implicated as hormone disrupters. In most cases, I have written a more detailed page (or pages) on the chemical. Note that due to the large quantity of research now being published, and the plethora of chemicals implicated in some way, it is not possible for me to list every chemicals. In addition, it is not always possible to keep all the specific chemical pages totally up to date.

The chemicals are divided into three groups, 'Industrial Chemicals' , 'Natural Hormones', and on a separate page, 'Pesticides'.

Industrial Chemicals


This group of chemicals are very widely used as plasticisers in plastics such as PVC, but some of them are also testicular toxins and can disrupt hormones. More details.


Alkylphenols and their derivatives have a variety of uses, including as industrial detergents and, outside Europe, as domestic detergents . They have been shown to be oestrogenic in many systems. More details.

Bisphenol A

An ingredient of lacquers that are used in dental treatment, and to coat metal containers such as food cans. It has been shown to leach from these cans into vegetables, and it is oestrogenic to human breast cancer cell cultures. More details.

Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and Dioxins

Dioxins are often produced during incineration, and also by some industrial processes, such as the production of chlorinated hydrocarbons and paper production. PCBs were used in electrical equipment such as transformers, but were banned some years ago. However, a large quantity of PCBs is still present in transformers and capacitors. More details.

Brominated flame retardants

Brominated flame retardants are a group of chemicals that are used in plastics and textiles to give flame retardant properties. Many of them are persistent and bioaccumulative, and several are hormone disrupters. More details.


A group of chemicals used as preservatives in cosmetics, and in some antibacterial toothpastes. Several chemicals in the group are oestrogen mimics. More details.

Butylated hydroxyanisole

Butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA) is a food antioxidant. It is slightly oestrogenic to breast cancer cells, binds rainbow trout oestrogen receptor and stimulates transcriptional activity of the human oestrogen receptor (Jobling et al., 1995).

Natural Hormones


Phytoestrogens are natural hormones present in many plants, and in particularly high levels in soya. More details.

Pollution by female hormones

Research in the UK has found that sewage effluents, and in some cases rivers, were oestrogenic, causing the production of vitellogenin (egg yolk protein) in male trout. Further research and fractionation of sewage effluents led to the identification of oestrone and 17beta-oestradiol as the main source of oestrogenic activity in most effluents (EA, 1997). These two hormones are naturally excreted, in a conjugated form, in the urine of women; bacteria in the sewage works then re-activate the hormones (Panter et al., 1999). The fractionation research also detected ethinyl oestradiol, from the contraceptive pill, in some effluents, but the natural oestrogens were always more important.

Note that sewage effluents do also contain other oestrogens, in particular alkylphenols (though not in UK domestic effluents), but also others.

Pesticides page>>

This page was last updated in October 1999
Return to the hormone disrupting chemicals home page


DOH, 1996. Advice on soya-based infant formula, UK Department of Health press release, 18th July 1996.

EA, 1997. The Identification and Assessment of Oestrogenic Substances in Sewage Treatment Works Effluents. Environment Agency, The Stationery Office, London. ISBN 0113101244.

Hopert, A.-C., Beyer, A., Frank, K., Strunck, E., Wünsche, W. and Vollmer, G. 1998. Characterization of estrogenicity of phytoestrogens in an endometrial-derived experimental model. Environmental Health Perspectives. 106: 581-586.

IEH 1995. Environmental oestrogens: Consequences to human health and wildlife. Institute for Environment and Health, University of Leicester, Leicester, UK

Jobling, S., Reynolds, T., White, R., Parker, M. G. and Sumpter, J. P. 1995. A variety of environmentally persistent chemicals, including some phthalate plasticizers, are weakly estrogenic. Environmental Health Perspectives 103 (Suppl. 7): 582-587.

Kelce, W. R., Monosson, E., Gamcsik, M. P., Laws, S. C. and Gray, L. E. 1994. Environmental hormone disruptors: evidence that Vinclozolin developmental toxicity is mediated by antiandrogenic metabolites. Toxicology and Applied Pharmacology 126: 276-285.

Panter, G. H., Thompson, R. S., Beresford, N. and Sumpter, J. P. 1999. Transformation of a non-oestrogenic steroid metabolite to an oestrogenically active substance by minimal bacterial activity. Chemosphere 38, p3579-3596.

URL: http://website.lineone.net/~mwarhurst/chemicals.html