Endocrine disrupting compounds
Endocrine disruptors are exogenous substances that alter function(s) of the endocrine system and consequently cause adverse health effects in an intact organism, or its progeny, or (sub)populations .
Endocrine systems are found in most varieties of animal life. The endocrine system is made up of glands, which secrete hormones, and receptor cells which detect and react to the hormones. Hormones are released by glands and travel throughout the body, acting as chemical messengers. Hormones interface with cells that contain matching receptors in or on their surfaces. The hormone binds with the receptor, much like a key would fit into a lock.
Disruption of the endocrine system can occur in various ways. Some chemicals mimic a natural hormone, fooling the body into over-responding to the stimulus, or responding at inappropriate times. Other endocrine disruptors block the effects of a hormone from certain receptors by blocking the receptor site on a cell. Still others directly stimulate or inhibit the endocrine system and cause overproduction or underproduction of hormones. Medical interventions commonly manipulate the endocrine system for the betterment of a patient, and side effects of such therapy can be interpreted as due to endocrine disruption. Substances in question are also known as Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals (EDCs) or Hormone Disrupting Chemicals (HDCs), and belong to the group of xenobiotics, foreign chemicals that affect a biological system.