Endocrine Disrupters, or Endocrine Disrupting Compounds (EDC) are chemicals that disrupt the proper functioning of the endocrine system of humans and animals. By EPA’s working definition, endocrine disruptors "interfere with the synthesis, secretion, transport, binding, action, or elimination of natural hormones in the body that are responsible for the maintenance of homeostasis (normal cell metabolism), reproduction, development, and/or behavior." They often resemble hormones and disrupt the physiologic function of endogenous hormones. A variety of chemicals are suspected of having endocrine disrupting activity, such as synthetic hormones, pharmaceuticals, pesticides, compounds used in the plastics industry and in consumer products. Examples of potential EDCs are dichloro-diphenyl-trichloroethane (DDT), polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), Bisphenol A, phthalates, dioxin derivatives, etc. These compounds may be found in everyday products (toys, detergents, flame retardants, etc.)
Studies have linked endocrine disruptors to adverse biological effects in animals, giving rise to concerns that low-level exposure might cause similar effects in human beings. EDCs may lead to reproductive problems (lower fertility, abnormal reproductive organs, skewed male-to-female sex ratios), early puberty, behavior problems, impaired immune functions and cancers. Exposure during pregnancy may severely affect the developing fetus.
Analysis and detection methods:
To achieve quantitative tests of EDC, GC-MS (Gas Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry) or LC-MS (Liquid Chromatography- Mass Spectrometry) can be used.
One of the first approaches is to use different organisms as biodetectors: The doses to which the hormones and some EDC can act are so low that their analysis is a real challenge. Some biodetection systems can give answers at steroid concentrations, 10 to 1000 times lower than techniques that will determine anabolic agents (technique that responds well to concentrations of the order of the nanogram per milliliter). In addition, low doses are often complex mixtures and the biodetector reveals all these substances.
Another in vitro test is based on a strain of yeast getting a gene, which expresses the human receptor to estrogen, YES (yeast estrogen screen).
Yeasts have the capacity by a series of enzyme reactions to produce the β-galactosidase that transforms the beginning yellow color of the mixture into a pink one, which absorbs at 540 nm in UV spectroscopy