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Pure Appl. Chem., Vol. 70, No. 9, pp. 1785-1794, 1998

    Natural and anthropogenic environmental oestrogens:
    the scientific basis for risk assessment

    Observations of endocrine effects in wildlife with evidence of their causation

     

    G. Van Der Kraak
    Department of Zoology, University of Guelph, Guelph, Ontario
    N1G 2W1.

    E-mail: gvanderk@uoguelph.ca

    Abstract: Defining the extent to which environmental chemicals affect the functioning of the endocrine system and thereby contribute to adverse health effects in wildlife is a complex issue. This article provides an overview of case studies in invertebrates and vertebrates demonstrating alterations in aspects of growth, reproduction and development which have been attributed to exposure to endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs). The diversity of responses seen with these studies highlights that there will be no single approach applicable to investigating endocrine disruption in wildlife and that understanding the cause and consequence of responses in wildlife is complicated. There is uncertainty in a) making the link between measures of exposure to suspected EDCs and physiological effects, b) interpreting biochemical and physiological effects in relation to whole organism fitness, and c) relating the relevance of responses in the individual to ecologically significant measures such as population sustainability. There will be no short cuts when it comes to defining the risks posed by EDCs. This will be achieved by developing an increased understanding of the biology and physiology of wildlife sentinel species and utilizing epidemiological methodology applied to field monitoring and increased reliance on in vivo testing strategies.

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