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R L Cooper and R J Kavlock

Introduction

Recently, there has been considerable discussion in both the scientific literature and the lay press regarding the possibility that environmental chemicals, through their effects on endocrine function, are responsible for a number of reproductive and developmental anomalies in a wide range of wildlife species from invertebrates, through fish, reptiles, birds and mammals, including humans. The endocrine system consists of a number of central nervous system (CNS)-pituitary-target organ feedback pathways involved in the regulation of a multitude of bodily functions and the maintenance of homeostasis. As such, there are several target organ sites at which an environmental agent could disrupt endocrine function. Furthermore, because of the complexity of the cellular processes involved in hormonal communication, and the central role hormones play in regulating differentiation in early life stages, many of these functions could participate mechanistically in a toxicant's effect, especially in developing organisms. In this Commentary we wish to discuss