Anendocrine-disrupting chemical (EDC) is an exogenous chemical, or mixture of chemicals, that can interfere with any aspect of hormone action. The potential for deleterious effects of EDC must be considered relative to the regulation of hormone synthesis, secretion, and actions and the variability in regulation of these events across the life cycle. The developmental age at which EDC exposures occur is a critical consideration in understanding their effects. Because endocrine systems exhibit tissue-, cell-, and receptor-specific actions during the life cycle, EDC can produce complex, mosaic effects. This complexity causes difficulty when a static approach to toxicity through endocrine mechanisms driven by rigid guidelines is used to identify EDC and manage risk to human and wildlife populations. We propose that principles taken from fundamental endocrinology be employed to identify EDC and manage their risk to exposed populations. We emphasize the importance of developmental stage and, in particular, the realization that exposure to a presumptive "safe" dose of chemical may impact a life stage when there is normally no endogenous hormone exposure, thereby underscoring the potential for very low-dose EDC exposures to have potent and irreversible effects. Finally, with regard to the current program designed to detect putative EDC, namely, the Endocrine Disruptor Screening Program, we offer recommendations for strengthening this program through the incorporation of basic endocrine principles to promote further understanding of complex EDC effects, especially due to developmental exposures.
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