Rutgers School of Public Health Professor Dr. Emily Barrett, PhD, and North Carolina State University Professor Dr. Heather Patisaul, PhD, have guest edited a special issue of the journal Hormones and Behavior. The issue, "Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals and Behavior," focuses on how endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs) influence behavior and comes at a critical moment in U.S. chemical regulatory policy. Today, more than 90,000 chemicals are in regular use, and for most of them, we know little about their impact on human health. Among the many EDCs of concern are phenols, parabens, phthalates, and flame retardants, all of which are widely found in consumer products. This special issue examines how these chemicals disrupt our endocrine systems and how they influence neurodevelopment, neurophysiology, brain aging, and behavior.
Early research on EDCs focused on how they changed reproductive physiology and behavior in laboratory animals and wildlife settings, but as the special issue makes clear, their impact extends much further and has clear implications for human health. EDCs have wide-ranging effects on hormone systems including estrogens, androgens, thyroid, and stress hormones. Because hormones are so integral to so many biological systems, when they are disrupted, there can be dramatic effects on the nervous system, reproductive system, immune function, and even metabolism. The Hormones and Behavior special issue highlights how EDCs may contribute to some of today's great public health concerns including rising rates of obesity and autism spectrum disorders.
"Many of our authors in this special issue focused on specific chemicals, some already data rich, and some that are considered emerging contaminants," Dr. Barrett writes. She continues: "Of all known EDCs, perhaps none has attracted as much attention in recent decades as Bisphenol A (BPA). Despite global public outcry over BPA in products ranging from baby bottles to canned goods, BPA continues to be produced in high volume and much remains to be learned about how this notorious chemical may impact hormone systems and by extension, behavior."
Other chemicals highlighted in the special issue include triclosan, which is found in some toothpastes and soaps and perfluoroalkyl substances, a widely used class of water-, oil-, and dirt-repellants. Even common medications, like acetaminophen may alter hormone activity and potentially interfere with neurodevelopment.
"We hope that after reading this special issue, readers will appreciate the urgent need for continued high quality research on how EDCs affect our health and the world around us," says Dr. Barrett. "Now, more than ever, this expertise is needed to ensure that EDC research continues to thrive."
The Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals and Behavior special issue is now out in Hormones and Behavior.