ovarian rejuvenation

05July, 2024

Endocrine disruptors and their impact on fertility

What are endocrine disruptors?

Endocrine disruptors or endocrine disrupting natural or man-made chemicals which alters the function of the body’s endocrine system and causes adverse health conditions by interfering with normal signalling mechanism of several hormones. They are heterogenous group of compounds which are distributed widely in our everyday use products.

Why do we have to worry about endocrine disruptors?

endocrine disruptors

Apart from these chemicals affecting our health in many ways, we worry about them because of the following

  • They are present everywhere
  • They cause harm in low doses
  • They cause irreversible damage
  • They potentially affect the future generation
  • Their dangerous effect on our health is easily neglected

What are the different endocrine disruptors and where are they present?

sources of endocrine disruptors

According to endocrine society, there are more than 1000 endocrine disruptors which are present. There are many kinds of endocrine disruptors, but the following are found in a variety of daily use products

  1. Bisphenol A (BPA): It is a plastic which is a xenoestrogen which has estrogen-like properties. They can be found in baby bottles, reusable bottles, etc.
  2. Dioxins: These are environmental pollutants which are byproduct of natural and industrial processes. They are present in food products such as dairy, meat and fish
  3. Perchlorates: They are inorganic ionic compounds that are naturally present in the upper atmosphere. They can be found in batteries, bleach and oxygen generating systems.
  4. Phthalates: These are chemical which are used to make plastic more durable and flexible. They are present in many detergents, personal care products, polyvinyl products and many other.
  5. Polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAs): They are synthetic substances which can be found in non-stick cookware, cosmetics, fast food packaging, personal care products and many other.
  6. Triclosan: These are biphenyl compounds which has remarkable antibacterial properties and can be found in several antibacterial soaps, deodorant, cosmetics and antiseptics
  7. Phytoestrogens: They are plant derived compounds which are non-steroidal and structurally like estrogen. They are found soy and soy products.

How does endocrine disruptors affect our health?

In our body endocrine glands play a significant role in maintaining the hormonal balance. Endocrine disruptors interfere with the hormonal balance and other chemicals that regulate our body’s metabolism, reproductive function, biological activities, growth and development. They can also affect the fetus during the intrauterine life and cause transgenerational damage.

How does endocrine disruptors affect female and male fertility?

In males, endocrine disruptors can cause abnormality in sperm count, motility, morphology and semen volume. They cause disruption of hypothalamus-pituitary-gonadal axis, can induce epigenetic modifications, produce reactive oxygen species and can also affect other cells involved in the reproductive organs.

In Females, endocrine disruptors can cause a wide range of disorders such as menstrual irregularity, polycystic ovarian syndrome, endometriosis, infertility, premature ovarian insufficiency or failure etc. They can also cause pregnancy loss, preterm delivery, pre-eclampsia, etc. when exposed during pregnancy.

edc and female fertility

The dangerous consequence of endocrine disruptors on fertility can be lifelong and even transgenerational. They can induce epigenetic changes which can be transmitted to future generations which affects their reproductive health and fertility.

transgenerational effect

What is the mechanism of action of endocrine disruptors?

how does endocrine disruptors act

Endocrine disruptors can act by disrupting hormone synthesis, transport, binding, metabolism and excretion. They act by either mimicking or blocking hormones. They can bind to hormone receptors and trick cells into either hyper respond or hypo respond. Some endocrine disruptors block the hormone receptor and cause loss of cellular function.

What can be done to reduce exposure to endocrine disruptors

We can minimize exposure to these compounds by choosing to live a conscious lifestyle by

  1. Avoiding plastics/packaged products
  2. Avoiding personal care products with synthetic perfume
  3. Avoiding antibacterial soaps that contain triclosan as an ingredient
  4. Minimizing the amount of make up use or change to organic cosmetics
  5. Choosing fresh food over canned foods
  6. Using organic and hormone free produce
  7. Take food products out of their plastic packaging at the earliest
  8. Avoiding plastic and choosing glass containers.


Endocrine disruptors are chemicals that interfere with our endocrine system and cause fertility issues, metabolic disorders and many health problems. Because of its effect on hormonal system, it affects male and female reproductive health which can lead to infertility. It affects human life from intrauterine period through adolescence into adulthood. Avoiding harmful chemicals and choosing safer products can reduce their harmful effects and pave the way for healthier future generations. Prevention is possible through conscious lifestyle, public awareness education and stricter policies.

Do you wish to understand the intricate interplay between various hormones involved in maintaining and male and female reproductive health? Join Medline Academic’s Fellowship in Reproductive Medicine today and elevate your expertise in the realm of fertility treatment.

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