Children's environmental health

Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals (EDCs)

Chris de Bode (WHO)

Endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) and potential EDCs are mostly man-made, found in various materials such as pesticides, metals, additives or contaminants in food, and personal care products. EDCs have been suspected to be associated with altered reproductive function in males and females; increased incidence of breast cancer, abnormal growth patterns and neurodevelopmental delays in children, as well as changes in immune function.

Human exposure to EDCs occurs via ingestion of food, dust and water, via inhalation of gases and particles in the air and through the skin. EDCs can also be transferred from the pregnant woman to the developing fetus or child through the placenta and breast milk. Pregnant mothers and children are the most vulnerable populations to be affected by developmental exposures, and the effect of exposures to EDCs may not become evident until later in life. Research also shows that it may increase the susceptibility to non-communicable diseases.

In response to these concerns, WHO published several publications, including the latest information on the subject in the State of the Science of Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals 2012, which was done in collaboration with UNEP and key scientific experts. A resolution to include EDCs as an emerging issue under Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management (SAICM) was also adopted in September 2012 by the third International Conference on Chemicals Management (ICCM3) in Nairobi during which WHO and UNEP jointly raised public awareness on EDC issues during a ise-event and technical briefing session (partially supported by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences).

Short information documents for decision makers

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Related links

Fact sheet

Factsheet about EDC soon to be published.

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