Endocrine disrupting compounds
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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 all vertebrate and most invertebrate animal species. The endocrine system is made up of glands which secrete hormones to body fluids, and receptor cells which detect and react to the hormones. The hormones act as chemical messengers. Hormones bind to cells that contain matching receptors in or on their surfaces, 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 receptor site on a cell. Still others directly stimulate or inhibit the endocrine system and cause overproduction or underproduction of hormones. The substances that show these effects are known as Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals (EDCs) or Hormone Disrupting Chemicals (HDCs).
The most conspicuous EDCs are those that affect reproduction. EDCs have been demonstrated to markedly affect animal populations in the coastal environment.