Endocrine Disrupters in the Environment
Report No FR/R0003

Revised May 2011


This report is the third in a series of FWR Reviews of Current Knowledge (ROCKs). Each review focuses on a topical issue in the water-environment area and provides concise, readable, scientific and technical information on the subject. They are intended to facilitate a wider understanding of the issues involved and to promote informed opinion about them.

This ROCK addresses endocrine disrupters which are chemicals that may cause adverse effects through interfering with hormone systems. This topic has recently received much attention from those who are interested in the water environment because of observed changes in certain marine and freshwater organisms. These changes concerned the reproductive systems of aquatic species such as fish downstream of sewage treatment works and whelks affected by ship anti-fouling agents.

The review is topical. The chemical industry and regulators are addressing endocrine disruption as part of large international programmes concerning the delivery of public information about the properties of chemicals. This is an extremely ambitious task given the vast array of chemicals that may have some endocrine modulation properties.

The review explains the background to this topic and how concerns about synthetic chemicals in the environment have evolved since the publication in 1962 of Rachel Carson's book Silent Spring. It explains what endocrine disruption is and which chemicals have been questioned as being endocrine disrupters. There is a discussion of the risks for the environment and for human health. These risks are compared with other risks that are commonly encountered. Finally the review summarises current initiatives designed to provide more information about the effects and the properties of individual chemicals that enter the environment and the human body.

The review is fully referenced, contains a bibliography and also a list of relevant websites. The total length is 31 pages (A5 size).

Copies of this report are available from the Foundation, price 15.00, less 20% for FWR Members.

View full report