Purpose of review
To overview the effects of endocrine disrupters on thyroid function.
Studies in recent years have revealed thyroid-disrupting properties of many environmentally abundant chemicals. Of special concern is the exposure of pregnant women and infants, as thyroid disruption of the developing fetus may have deleterious effects on neurological outcome. Evidence is reviewed for the following groups of chemicals: polychlorinated biphenyls, dioxins, flame retardants, pesticides, perfluorinated chemicals, phthalates, bisphenol A and ultraviolet filters. Chemicals may exert thyroid effects through a variety of mechanisms of action, and some publications have focused on elucidating the mechanisms of specific (groups of) chemicals.
A large variety of ubiquitous chemicals have been shown to have thyroid-disrupting properties, and the combination of mechanistic, epidemiological and exposure studies indicates that the ubiquitous human and environmental exposure to industrial chemicals may impose a serious threat to human and wildlife thyroid homeostasis. Currently, available evidence suggests that authorities need to regulate exposure to thyroid-disrupting chemicals of pregnant women, neonates and small children in order to avoid potential impairment of brain development. Future studies will indicate whether adults also are at risk of thyroid damage due to these chemicals.