Open Access Open Access  Restricted Access Subscription or Fee Access

Environmental estrogens: A silent enemy

Neharika Saxena


Throughout our lives we are exposed to environmental estrogens, from food, air, water, soil, and household products as well as probably through breast milk or during development in the womb. Environmental estrogens have endocrine disrupting activity. Many times natural plant compounds or synthetic chemicals may also disturb the endocrine system. These compounds are weaker than the estrogen naturally produced in the body. Many reproductive, developmental and other health problems have also been linked to these substances when used in lab animals and wildlife. The contaminants derived from estrogenic sources are used for various purposes. They are used to make plastics, pesticides and other commercial products. The potency of natural hormones is greater than any synthetic estrogen except for drugs like diethylstilboestrol (DES). Several factors influence estrogen production (gender, age and reproductive cycle). The majority of natural estrogens are short-lived, do not accumulate in tissues, and are rapidly degraded in the liver. Synthetic environmental estrogens such as beta-hexachlorocyclohexane (beta-HCH), estrogenic drugs such as ethinylestradiol diethylstilbestrol (DES), OPP' DDT, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), 4-nonylphenol (NP) and phytoestrogens such as isoflavones or lignans, are more stable and remain in the body longer than natural estrogens. Animal and human fat and tissues tend to accumulate most of these compounds since they are lipophilic. Environmental estrogens, in turn, may mimic, block or cancel out the effects of natural estrogen, based on the natural estrogen levels. In this review we discuss the effects of environmental estrogens on human health.


Environmental fate, Estrogens, Xenoestrogens, Environmental pollution, Carcinogen

Full Text:



Aravindakshan J, Paquet V, Gregory M, Dufresne J, Fournier M, Marcogliese DJ, Cyr DG. Consequences of xenoestrogen exposure on male reproductive function in spot tail shiners (Notropis hudsonius). Toxicological Sciences. 2004; 78 (1): 156–65.

Srinivas H. Urban waste management. Urban waste management. 2021. Web:

Aksglaede L, Juul A, Leffers H, Skakkebaek N E , Anderson A M. The sensitivity of the child to sex steroids: possible impact of exogenous estrogens. Human Reproduction. 2006; 12 (4): 341–9. doi:10.1093/humupd/dml018.

Tapiero H., Nguyen Ba G, Tew K.D. Estrogens and environmental estrogens. Biomedicine & Pharmacotherapy. 2002; 56(1): 36-44.

Jones, R. Report posted on the Internet. CNN. 1999. January 3, 2000.

Caserta D, Maranghi L, Mantovani A, Marci R, Maranghi F, Moscarini M. Impact of endocrine disruptor chemicals in gynaecology. Human Reproduction. 2008; 14 (1): 59–72.

Toppari J, Juul A. Trends in puberty timing in humans and environmental modifiers. Molecular and Cellular Endocrinology. 2010; 324 (1–2): 39–44.

Roy JR, Chakraborty S, Chakraborty TR. Estrogen-like endocrine disrupting chemicals affecting puberty in humans - a review. Medical Science Monitor. 2009; 15(6): RA137–45.

Luconi M, Bonaccorsi L, Forti G, Baldi E. Effects of estrogenic compounds on human spermatozoa: evidence for interaction with a nongenomic receptor for estrogen on human sperm membrane. Molecular and Cellular Endocrinology. 2001; 178 (1–2): 39 - 45. doi:10.1016/S0303-7207(01)00416-6.

Vom Saal F S, Hughes C. An extensive new literature concerning low-dose effects of bisphenol A shows the need for a new risk assessment. Environmental Health Perspectives. 2005; 113 (8): 926-933.

Emmet R.E.W. The Relation of Estrogenic Activity to Structure in Some 4, 4'-Dihydroxydiphenylmethanes. Journal of the American Chemical Society.1944; 66 (6): 967–969.

Nikaido Y, Yoshizawa K, Danbara N, Tsujita-Kyutoku M, Yuri T, Uehara N, Tsubura A. Effects of maternal xenoestrogen exposure on development of the reproductive tract and mammary gland in female CD-1 mouse offspring. Reproductive Toxicology. 2004; 18 (6): 803–811.

Viñas, R., Watson, C S. Bisphenol S Disrupts Estradiol-Induced Nongenomic Signaling in a Rat Pituitary Cell Line: Effects on Cell Functions. Environmental Health Perspectives. 2013; 121 (3): 352–358.

Patisaul HB, Adewale H B. Long-term effects of environmental endocrine disruptors on reproductive physiology and behavior. Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience. 2009; 3: 10. doi:10.3389/neuro.08.010.2009.

Health Canada. Questions and Answers - Hormonal Growth Promoters. Health Canada Handbook. 2014; 1(1): 5-6.

Sharpe RM. Pathways of endocrine disruption during male sexual differentiation and masculinisation. Best Practice & Research Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism. 2006; 20: 91–110.

Tsutsumi O. Assessment of human contamination of estrogenic endocrine-disrupting chemicals and their risk for human reproduction. Journal of Steroid Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. 2004; 93(2-5): 325-330. doi: 10.1016/j.jsbmb.2004.12.008.

Carlsen E, Giwercman A, Keiding N, Skakkebaek NE. Evidence for decreasing quality of semen during past 50 years. Biomedical journal. 1992; 305: 609–613.


  • There are currently no refbacks.

Copyright (c) 2021 Research & Reviews: Journal of Ecology

eISSN: 2278–2230