About Endocrine-Disrupting Chemicals

Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals (EDCs) are a class of chemicals that can mimic our own hormones and interfere with the endocrine system of people and wildlife.   They can disrupt healthy development and are thought to play a role in a range of disorders: from birth defects, reproductive disorders, cancers.  Over 800 hundred chemicals are known or suspected EDCs.  They can be found in food and in thousands of other products (WHO, 2013).  Known endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs) include, among others, PCB, DDT, PBDE and some phthalates.  However, no commonly accepted criteria for the identification of EDCs are yet available.

While uncertainties remain, a number of laboratory and epidemiological studies have suggested associations between exposure to certain EDCs and adverse effects in humans, including reproductive dysfunctions, cancers, neurodevelopmental disorders, diabetes and metabolic disorders, among others. Some studies also suggest that certain chemicals have endocrine-disrupting effects on wildlife, including feminization of some species (GCO II, UNEP 2019).

As indicated in the GCO II, EDCs have become a topic of significant international interest. Substantial efforts have been made over the past decades to develop a better scientific understanding, to identify EDCs and develop scientific approaches to support risk management. An important milestone was reached in 2012, when the third session of the ICCM recognized EDCs as an emerging policy issue (EPI).