Endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs), which constitute a vast array of chemicals commonly found in our homes and food, are substantial contributors to global burden of disease. Animal and human studies have shown EDCs may interfere with the body’s endocrine system producing adverse developmental, reproductive, neurological, and immune effects. In numerous countries including Australia, biomonitoring programs are used to assess temporal and demographic trends in EDC exposure and assess the effectiveness of actions aimed at reducing exposure. There are many challenges for researchers in attempting to determine causal links between EDC exposure and disease which include the lag time between exposure and disease, ethical considerations and costs associated with long term studies needed.
Over the past decade, we have established sampling techniques and analytical methods to monitor exposure to EDCs. We have collected almost 20000 samples and now study exposure to a variety of household, industrial and agricultural chemicals, including chemicals that are short-lived in our bodies, such as organophosphate insecticides, and chemicals that are persistent, such as polybrominated diphenyl ether flame retardants (PBDEs) and perfluoroalkyl acids (PFAAs). We measure exposure through a variety of matrices, including urine, faeces, breast milk and serum. Since exposure to many of these EDCs cannot be reduced at the individual level, the risk of exposure is being mitigated by government regulation in order to reduce population exposure on a whole. Our monitoring has shown a significant decrease in some of these EDC concentrations since monitoring began in 2002 and has been used to inform government decision-making.