Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals Effects Reproduction

Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals Effects Reproduction

Over the past two decades, infertility is on the rise in India, both among men and women, and especially in urban societies. One in six couples seeks advice for infertility. Sperm quality has declined over the last 40 years, with one in 20 men currently facing reduced fertility. Women’s potential to produce eggs, called ovarian reserves, is also dwindling. And, their ovaries are ageing faster than they do—a cause of concern for reproductive medicine specialists as there is very little at hand to rejuvenate ageing ovaries.

Indian women are losing their reserves six years earlier than their western counterparts. A century ago, women could procreate even at 40. .


Then there are endocrine disruptors. An Endocrine Disrupting Chemical (EDC) is any substance that interferes with normal hormonal activity. The category includes some metals, many industrial chemicals, natural and synthetic hormones, pesticides, fungicides, herbicides and pharmaceutical drugs; even personal care products including cosmetics and textiles may incorporate EDCs.

EDCs have far-reaching effects on human reproduction, cancer development including breast and prostate, metabolism and obesity and thyroid endocrinology. The effects of these compounds set in early before birth when the mother is exposed to them during pregnancy. There are subsequent exposures during childhood and adolescence, with manifestations in adult life. Exposure to EDCs in such infants have long-bearing influence on neurodevelopmental aspects and may be the plausible link to attention and behaviour disorders in children. Thyroid disorders among Indian population are on the rise, which may have a genesis in EDC exposure.

Chemicals,  Threatening Human Fertility?

There are definite gaps in the knowledge on the exact list of EDCs, besides the extent and duration of exposure needed to disturb reproductive function.

The 2013 list from the World Health Organization is far from complete, suggesting that it is time for environmentalists and human biologists to put their minds together on translational research that draws clinicians and policy makers to collate consensus banning many such harmful products. Also, additional research targeting lifestyle factors that can impact fertility is urgently needed.

(Dr Naresh Purohit  is executive member of the Indian Society of Reproductive Medicine. He is also advisor to the National Communicable Disease Control Programme. The doctor is also Advisor to six other National Health Programmes. He is visiting Professor in five Medical Universities of  Southern India including Thrissur based  Kerala University of Health Sciences. (The views and opinion expressed in this article are those of the author)



Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here