Introduction to hormone disrupting chemicals


Health concerns

Suspect chemicals

The endocrine system


Policy responses

About this site

Introduction to Hormone Disrupting Chemicals

These pages provide an introduction to the effects of hormone disrupting chemicals on man and the environment, and the response of Governments and industry to this problem. Other terms used to describe these chemicals include xenoestrogens, oestrogenic (estrogenic), hormone mimicking and endocrine disrupting chemicals.

These pages are aimed at anyone interested in the subject, and include references to other research and reviews for those interested in investigating the field further.

July 2009 update: Links to other sites & my new blog

1) Revised links

This site has not been updated for some years.
If you want to know what is happening now with chemicals policy in Europe, try the following sites:

2) A new blog on European Environmental Policy

In July 2009 I started a new personal internet project (the first since this web site), a blog on European Envronmental Policy, find out more at:

NB: This site is currently in 'maintenance mode' only - I updated broken links in November 2002, but have not done any significant text updating since 1999.

Human health concerns

Testicular cancer is increasing rapidly, whilst sperm counts are falling. Breast cancer is increasing, and girls are reaching puberty earlier. More details here.

Suspect chemicals

The chemicals involved include pesticides such as DDT, lindane and vinclozolin and industrial chemicals such as phthalates, bisphenol A and alkylphenols. The pesticides can be found in residues on food, phthalates are in many PVC plastics and bisphenol A is present in the linings of many food cans. More details here.

The role of the endocrine system

The endocrine (or hormonal) system controls many crucial aspects of the working of the body, for example development of sexual characteristics, and development of the brain. Chemicals can disrupt the endocrine system by a range of mechanisms, but the impact of this disrupt is often influenced by its timing, with development the most crucial time. More details here.

Some controversial issues

As a fairly new area of science, with economic significance to the chemical industry, there are some very controversial issues, including the significance of low doses, deficiencies in chemicals regulation and the lessons of BSE. More details here.

The response of Governments and industry

Governments in several countries have started to develop policies towards hormone disrupting chemicals. Most of these policies involve reasearch and screening of chemicals, rather than regulatory action on individual chemicals. The chemical industry is unwilling to accept that endocrine disruption is any more than a 'hypothesis'. More details here.

There is also more information on chemicals policy available at Friends of the Earth's 'Safer Chemicals Campaign' site & the chemical reaction and WWF Detox sites (see top of page).

Taking action

There are many actions that consumers can take to reduce their exposure to hormone disrupting chemicals, both through buying different products and by pressurising companies and governments to phase them out. It is virtually impossible, however, to avoid all exposure, as these chemicals are extremely widespread. For more information, see Friends of the Earth's 'Safer Chemicals Campaign' site & the chemical reaction and WWF Detox sites (see top of page).

Other sources of information

A range of other websites cover hormone disrupting chemicals and chemicals policy. I would particularly recommend the Tulane University 'Environmental Estrogens and Other Hormones' site; there's more links here, on the Friends of the Earth site.

About this site

This site started in July 1995 (which is why it looks a little dated these days), and is written and produced by Dr A. Michael Warhurst, an environmental chemist who now works for Friends of the Earth in London. For a brief history of this site, and why I created it, see about this site. To find out more about me & my work, see my brief cv.

This page was last (slightly) updated in June 2004, and my details and some links were updated in November 2006; in July 2009 new links on chemicals policy were added, as was a link to