Environmental Monitoring and Assessment

, Volume 53, Issue 1, pp 245–258 | Cite as

Human Health Effects of Environmental Pollutants: New Insights

  • D.O. Carpenter


While a variety of effects of toxic chemicals are known in animals exposed both in the laboratory and in situ, it has proven more difficult to obtain definitive information relating harm to humans resulting from environmental contamination. Until quite recently it has been generally assumed that cancer was the human disease of greatest importance. In fact, the majority of regulations of exposure to toxic chemicals by most governments are designed on the basis of presumed cancer risk. The evidence that hazardous chemicals can cause cancer is strong, and concern of cancer risks is appropriate. However, recent evidence has triggered a reevaluation of the assumption that cancer is the sole disease of concern. New evidence has emerged suggesting that exposure to hazardous chemicals may lead to a variety of non-cancer endpoints, and that these effects may occur at low concentrations. Of particular concern is evidence for irreversible effects on the embryo and very young children which influence intelligence, attention span, sexual development and immune function. Some of these actions appear to be direct effects on the brain and other organ systems while others are mediated via disruption of endocrine systems. While these effects are subtle and difficult to quantify, the aggregated evidence is sufficiently compelling as to necessitate reevaluation of those health outcomes upon which regulations are based.


Endpoint Young Child Health Outcome Cancer Risk Health Effect 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Allen, L.S. and Gorski, R.A.: 1992, Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 89, 7199–7202.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  2. Aschengrau., A., Ozonoff, D., Faulu, C., Coogan, P., Vezina, R, Heeren, T. and Zhang, Y.: 1993, Arch. Environ. Health 48, 284–292.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  3. Auger, J., Kunstmann, J.M., Czyglik, F. and Jouannet P.: 1995, N. Engl. J. Med. 332, 281–285.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  4. Barteechi, C.E., MacKenzie, T.D. and Schrier, R.W.: 1994, N. Engl. J. Med. 330, 907–912.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  5. Bellinger, D., Leviton, A., Allred, E. and Rabinowitz, M.: 1994, Environ. Res. 66, 12–30.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  6. Biederman, J., Faraone, S.V., Keenan, K., Knee, K. and Tsuang, M.T.: 1990, J. Am. Acad. Child Adolesc. Psychiatry 29, 526–533.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  7. Birnbaum, L.S.: 1994, Environ. Health Perspect. 102, 676–679.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  8. Bowman, R.E., Heironimus, M.P. and Allen, J.R.: 1978, Fundam. Appl. Toxicol. 15, 457–467.Google Scholar
  9. Bowman, R.E., Heironimus, M.P. and Barsotti, D.A.: 1981, NeuroToxicology 2, 251–268.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  10. Buffler, P.A., Crane, M. and Key, M.M.: 1985, Environ. Health Perspect. 62, 423–456.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  11. Bush, B., Bennett, A.H. and Snow, J.T.: 1986, Arch. Environ. Contam. Toxicol. 15: 333–341.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  12. Carlsen, E., Giwereman, A., Keiding, N. and Skakkebaek, N.E.: 1992, Br. Med. J. 305, 609–613.Google Scholar
  13. Carpenter, D.O.: 1994, Cent. Eur. J. Publ. Health Suppl. 2, 6–9.Google Scholar
  14. Chen, Y.-C., Guo, Y.-L., Hsu, C.-C. and Rogan, W.: 1992, J. Am. Med. Assoc. 268, 3213–3218.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Colborn, T. and Clement, C.: 1992, ‘Chemically induced alterations in sexual and functional development: The wildlife/human connection’, Colborn, T. and Clement, C. eds., Princeton Scientific Publishing Co., 403 pp.Google Scholar
  16. Colborn, T., vom Saal, F.S. and Soto, A.M.: 1993, Environ. Health Perspect. 101, 378–384.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  17. Cooke, P.S., Zhao, Y.D. and Hansen, L.G.: 1996, Toxicol. Appl. Pharmacol. 136, 112–117.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  18. Danzo, B.J.: 1997, Environ. Health Perspect. 105, 294–301.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  19. Davila, D.R., Davis D.P., Campbell, K., Cambier, J.C., Zigmond, L.A. and Burchiel, S.W.: 1995, J. Toxicol. Environ. Health 45, 101–126.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  20. Davis, D.L., Bradlow, H.L., Wolff, M., Woodruff, T., Hoel, D.G. and Anton-Culver, H.: 1993, Environ. Health Perspect. 101: 372–377.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  21. Dean, J.H., Cornacoff, J.B., Rosenthal, G.J. and Luster, M.I.: 1994, ‘Immune System, evaluation of injury’, in Principals and Methods of Toxicology, 3rd Edition, Hayes, A.W., ed., Raven Press, New York, pp. 105–190.Google Scholar
  22. Donna, A., Betta, P.G., Robutti, F., Crosignani, P., Berrion, F. and Bellinger, D.: 1984, Carcinogenesis 5, 941–942.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  23. Doyle, T.J., Zheng, W., Cerhan, J.R., Hong, C.-P., Sellers, T.A., Kushi, L.H. and Folsom, A.R.: 1997, AJPH 87, 1168–1176.Google Scholar
  24. Ennever, F.K.: 1994, ‘Metals’, in Principals and Methods of Toxicology, 3rd Edition, Hayes, A.W., ed., Raven Press, New York, pp. 417–466.Google Scholar
  25. Friedman, R.C. and Downey, J.: 1993, J. Neuropsychiatry Clin. Neurosci. 5, 131–153.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  26. Geschwind, S.A., Stolwijk, J.A.J., Bracken, M., Fitzgerald, E., Stark, A., Olsen, C. and Melius, J.: 1992, Am. J. Epidemiol. 135, 1197–1207.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  27. Gierthy, J.F., Arcaro, K.F. and Floyd, M.: 1997, Chemosphere 34: 1495–1505.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  28. Gittelman, R., and Eskenazi, B.: 1983, Arch. Gen. Psychiatr. 40, 827–833.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  29. Gladen, B.C., Rogan, W.J., Hardy, P., Thullen, J., Tingelstad, J. and Tully, M.: 1988, J. Pediatr. 113, 991–995.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  30. Gold, E., Gordis, L., Tonascia, J. and Szklo, M.: 1979, Am. J. Epidemiol. 109, 309–319.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  31. Goldman, L.R., Paigen, B., Magnant, M.M. and Highland, J.H.: 1985, Hazard. Waste Hazard. Mat. 2, 209–224.Google Scholar
  32. Hauser, P., Soler, R., Brucker-Davis, J. and Weintraub, B.D.: 1997, Psychoneuroendocrinology 22, 107–114.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  33. Hauser, P., Zametkin, A.J., Martinez, P., Vitello, B., Matachik, J.A., Mixson, A.J. and Weintraub, B.D.: 1993, N. Engl. J. Med. 328, 997–1001.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  34. Henderson, B.E., Ross, R.K. and Pike, M.C.: 1991, Science 254, 1131–1138.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  35. Herbst, A., Ulfelder, H. and Posskanzer, D.: 1971, N. Engl. J. Med. 284, 878–881.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  36. Holene, E., Nafstad, I., Skaare, J.U., Bernhoft, A., Engen, P. and Sagnolden, T.: 1995, Environ. Toxicol. Chem. 14, 967–976.Google Scholar
  37. Hunter, D.J., Hankinson, S.E., Laden, F., Colditz, G.A., Manson, J.E., Willett, W.C., Speizer, F.E. and Wolff, M.S.: 1997, N. Engl. J. Med. 337, 1253–1258.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  38. Jacobson, J.L. and Jacobson, S.W.: 1996, N. Engl. J. Med. 335, 783–789.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  39. Jacobson, J.L., Jacobson, S.W. and Humphrey, H.E.B.: 1990, J. Pediatr. 116, 38–45.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  40. Janerich, D.T., Burnett, W.S., Feck, G., Hoff, M., Nasca, P., Polednak, A.P., Greenwald, P. and Vianna, N.: 1981, Science 212, 1404–1407.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  41. Jobling, S., Reynolds, T., White, R., Parker, M.G. and Sumpter, J.P.: 1995, Environ. Health Perspect. 103, 582–587.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  42. Jones, R.R.: 1987, Lancet 2, 443–446.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  43. Kavlock, R.J., Daston, G.P., et al.: 1996, Environ. Health Persp. 104(Suppl 4), 715–740.Google Scholar
  44. Koivusalo, M., Jaakkola, J.J.K., Vartiainen, T., Hakulinen, T., Karjalainen, S., Pukkala, E. and Tuomisto, J.: 1994, AJPH 84, 1223–1228.Google Scholar
  45. Lawrence, D.A.: 1985, ‘Immunotoxicity of heavy metals’, in Immunotoxicology and Immunopharmacology, Dean, J. et al. ed., Raven Press, New York, pp. 341–353.Google Scholar
  46. LeVay, S.A.: 1991, Science 253, 1034–1037.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  47. Lilienthal H., Neuf, M, Munoz, C. and Winneke, G.: 1990, Fundam. Appl. Toxicol. 15, 457–467.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  48. Linet, M.S., Malker, H.S.R., McLaughlin, J.K., Weiner, J.A., Blot, W.J, Ericsson, J.L.E. and Fraumeni, J.F.: 1993, Br. J. Indust. Med. 50, 79–84.Google Scholar
  49. McKinney, J.D., Fawkes, J., Jordan, S., Chae, K., Oatley, S., Coleman, R.E. and Briner, W.: 1985, Environ. Health Perspect. 61, 41–53.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  50. Morse, D.C., Groen, D., Veerman, M., Van Amerongen, C.J., Koeter, H.B.W.M., Smits Van Prooije, A.E., Visser, T.J., Koeman, J.H. and Brouwer, A.: 1993, Toxicol. Appl. Pharmacol. 122, 27–33.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  51. Myers, G.J., Davidson, P.W., Weitzman, M. and Lanphear, B.P.: 1997, MRDD Research Reviews 3, 239–245.Google Scholar
  52. Needleman, H.L., Gunne, C., Leviton, A., Reed, R., Peresie, H., Maher, C. and Barrett, P.: 1979, N. Engl. J. Med. 300, 689–695.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  53. Newbold, R.: 1995, Environ. Health Perspect. 103, 83–87.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  54. Paigen, B., Goldman, L.R., Highland, J.H., Magnanat, M.M. and Steegman, A.T.: 1985, Hazard. Waste Hazard. Mat. 2, 23–43.Google Scholar
  55. Paigen, B., Goldman, L.R., Magnant, M., Highland, J.H. and Steegman, A.T.: 1987, Hum. Biol. 59, 489–508.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  56. Pantaleoni, G., Fanini, D., Spnta, A.M., Palumbo, G., Giorgi, R. and Adams, P.M.: 1988, Fundam. Appl. Toxicol. 11, 440–449.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  57. Porterfield, S.P.: 1994, Environ. Health Persp. 102,Suppl. 2, 125–130.Google Scholar
  58. Porterfield, S.P. and Hendrich, C.E.: 1993, Endocrine Rev. 14, 344–356.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Preston-Martin, S., Yu, M.C., Benton, B. and Henderson B.E., 1982, Cancer Res. 42, 5240–5245.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  60. Rier, S.E., Martin, D.C., Bowman, R.E., Dnowski, W.P. and Becker, J.L.: 1993, Fund. Appl. Toxicol. 21, 433–441.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Rogan, W.J., Gladen, B.C., Hung, K.-L., Koong, S.-L., Shih, L.-Y., Taylor, J.S., Wu, Y.-C., Yang, D., Ragan, N.B. and Hsu, C.-C.: 1988, Science 241, 334–336.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  62. Rothman, N., Cantor, K.P., Blair, A., Bush, D., Brock, J.W., Helzisouer, K., Zahn, S.H., Needham, L.L., Pearson, G.R., Hoover, R.N., Comstock, G.W. and Strickland, P.T.: 1997, Lancet 350, 240–244.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  63. Safe, S., Astroff, B., Harris, M., Zacharewski, T., Dickerson, R., Romkes, M. and Biegel, L.: 1991, Pharmacol. Toxicol. 69, 400–409.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  64. Sandler, D.P. and Collman, G.W.: 1987, Am. J. Epidemiol. 126, 1017–1032.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  65. Shiota, K.: 1976, Okajimas Fol. Anat. Jpn. 53, 105–114.Google Scholar
  66. Silbergeld, E. and Tonat, K.: 1994, Toxicol. Indust. Health 10, 675–682.Google Scholar
  67. Silkworth, J.B., Antrim, L. and Sack, G.: 1986, Toxicol. Appl. Pharmacol. 86, 380–390.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  68. Smith, P.J., Langolf, G.D. and Goldberg, J.: 1983, Brit. J. Indust. Med. 40, 413–419.Google Scholar
  69. Sosroseno, W.: 1995, Asian Pacific J. Allergy Immunol. 13, 173–181.Google Scholar
  70. Storm, J.E., Hart, J.L. and Smith R.F.: 1981, Neurobehav. Toxicol. Teratol. 3, 5–9.Google Scholar
  71. Swan, S.H., Elkin, E.P., and Fenster, L.: 1997, Environm. Health Perspect. 105, 1228–1232.Google Scholar
  72. Toppari, J., Larsen, J.C., et al.: 1996, Environ. Health Perspect. 104(Suppl. 4), 741–806.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  73. van Wassenaer, A.G., Kok, J.H., De Vijlder, J.J.M., Briët, J.M., Smit, B.J., Tamminga, P., van Baar, A., Dekker, F.W. and Vulsma, T.: 1997, N. Engl. J. Med. 336, 21–26.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  74. Vianna, N. and Polan, A.K.: 1984, Science 226, 1217–1219.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  75. Vom Saal, F.S., Cooke, P.S., Buchanan, D.L., Palanza, P., Thayer, K.A., Nagel, S.C., Parmigiani, S. and Welshons, W.V.: 1998, Toxicol. Indust. Health 14, 239–260.Google Scholar
  76. Wolff, M.S., Paolo, G., Toniolo, P., Lee Eric, W., Rivera, M. and Dubin, N.: 1993, J. Nat. Cancer Inst. 85, 648–652.PubMedGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1998

Authors and Affiliations

  • D.O. Carpenter
    • 1
  1. 1.School of Public HealthUniversity at Albany, SUNY, One University PlaceRensselaerNew York

Personalised recommendations