Environmental and dietary estrogens and human health: is there a problem? Academic Article uri icon


  • It has been hypothesized that organochlorine pesticides and other environmental and dietary estrogens may be associated with the increased incidence of breast cancer in women and decreased sperm concentrations and reproductive problems in men. However, elevation of organochlorine compounds such as dichlorodipehenyldichloroethylene (DDE) and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) in breast cancer patients is not consistently observed. Reanalysis of the data showing that male sperm counts decreased by over 40% during 1940 to 1990 indicated that inadequate statistical methods were used and that the data did not support a significant decline in sperm count. Humans are exposed to both natural and industrial chemicals which exhibit estrogenic and antiestrogenic activities. For example, bioflavonoids, which are widely distributed in foods, and several industrial compounds, including organochlorine pesticides and various phenolic chemicals, exhibit estrogenic activity. Humans are also exposed to chemicals which inhibit estrogen-induced responses such as the aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AhR) agonist 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin and related chlorinated aromatics, polynuclear aromatic hydrocarbon combustion products, and indole-3-carbinol, which is found in cruciferous vegetables. Many of the weak estrogenic compounds, including bioflavonoids, are also antiestrogenic at some concentrations. A mass balance of dietary levels of industrial and natural estrogens, coupled with their estimated estrogenic potencies, indicates that the dietary contribution of estrogenic industrial compounds is 0.0000025% of the daily intake of estrogenic flavonoids in the diet.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 250 WORDS)

published proceedings

  • Environ Health Perspect

altmetric score

  • 1

author list (cited authors)

  • Safe, S. H.

citation count

  • 374

complete list of authors

  • Safe, SH

publication date

  • April 1995