Impacts of endocrine disrupting chemicals on reproduction in wildlife and humans
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Endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) are ubiquitous in aquatic and terrestrial environments. The main objective of this review was to summarize the current knowledge of the impacts of EDCs on reproductive success in wildlife and humans. The examples selected often include a retrospective assessment of the knowledge of reproductive impacts over time to discern how the effects of EDCs have changed over the last several decades. Collectively, the evidence summarized here within reinforce the concept that reproduction in wildlife and humans is negatively impacted by anthropogenic chemicals, with several altering endocrine system function. These observations of chemicals interfering with different aspects of the reproductive endocrine axis are particularly pronounced for aquatic species and are often corroborated by laboratory-based experiments (i.e. fish, amphibians, birds). Noteworthy, many of these same indicators are also observed in epidemiological studies in mammalian wildlife and humans. Given the vast array of reproductive strategies used by animals, it is perhaps not surprising that no single disrupted target is predictive of reproductive effects. Nevertheless, there are some general features of the endocrine control of reproduction, and in particular, the critical role that steroid hormones play in these processes that confer a high degree of susceptibility to environmental chemicals. New research is needed on the implications of chemical exposures during development and the potential for long-term reproductive effects. Future emphasis on field-based observations that can form the basis of more deliberate, extensive, and long-term population level studies to monitor contaminant effects, including adverse effects on the endocrine system, are key to addressing these knowledge gaps.
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