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The health effects of endocrine-disrupting chemicals

This is Science Today. Endocrine-disrupting chemicals, which include the now-banned insecticide DDT and the PCBs used in coolants, basically mimic naturally occurring hormones in the body, such as estrogen and testosterone. Tracey Woodruff, a reproductive health expert at the University of California, San Francisco, explains that endocrine-disrupting chemicals can have downstream consequences in terms of health effects.

Woodruff: For example, when a male boy is developing in utero, their levels of testosterone can change dramatically, so that when the baby boy is born, he has a normal set of reproductive organs. Now, animal experiments have shown that if you expose animals to phthalates, which basically reduce levels of testosterone, you can actually inhibit the normal development.

Narrator: Phthalates are substances added to hard plastics for flexibility.

Woodruff: One of the things I'm very interested in is looking at what kinds of actions we should be taking in the policy arena that can better protect the public from impacts from environmental contaminants.

Narrator: For Science Today, I'm Larissa Branin.