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Impact of endocrine-disrupting compounds (EDCs) on female reproductive health.


Evidence is accumulating that environmental chemicals (ECs) including endocrine-disrupting compounds (EDCs) can alter female reproductive development, fertility and onset of menopause. While not as clearly defined as in the male, this set of abnormalities may constitute an Ovarian Dysgenesis Syndrome with at least some origins of the syndrome arising during foetal development. ECs/EDCs have been shown to affect trophoblast and placental function, the female hypothalamo-pituitary-gonadal axis, onset of puberty and adult ovarian function. The effects of ECs/EDCs are complex, not least because it is emerging that low-level, 'real-life' mixtures of ECs/EDCs may carry significant biological potency. In addition, there is evidence that ECs/EDCs can alter the epigenome in a sexually dimorphic manner, which may lead to changes in the germ line and perhaps even to transgenerational effects. This review summarises the evidence for EC, including EDC, involvement in female reproductive dysfunction, it highlights potential mechanisms of EC action in the female and emphasises the need for further research into EC effects on female development and reproductive function.