Developmental Exposure to Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals: Is There a Connection with Birth and Childhood Weights?

  • Elizabeth E. HatchEmail author
  • Jessica W. Nelson
  • Rebecca Troisi
  • Linda Titus
Part of the Contemporary Endocrinology book series (COE)


Childhood obesity has increased dramatically over the last several decades in developed countries, and more recently in developing countries. Most research on causes of obesity has focused on various aspects of diet and lack of physical activity as the primary risk factors. Clearly, a balance between energy intake and energy expenditure is critical to maintain a healthy body weight, but other factors have also been linked to the obesity epidemic. One area of concern is increasing exposure to endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs), especially during the prenatal period. Animal studies have suggested that fetal exposure to certain EDCs may cause systemic alterations in aspects of ‘fetal programming’ related to adipocyte differentiation and function, appetite regulation, and other body systems involved in weight homeostasis. One plausible pathway between prenatal exposures to EDCs and obesity might be through effects on fetal growth, since both growth retardation and high birth weight have been associated with later obesity. Some studies have found associations between several classes of EDCs, including PCBs, organochlorine pesticides such as DDT and hexachlorobenzene (HCB), phenols, and PFCs and fetal growth retardation. Although animal data have suggested that EDCs can affect offspring obesity, thus far, data from human epidemiological studies that have directly examined prenatal EDC exposure in relation to childhood growth are not sufficient to draw conclusions. Several methodologic challenges exist in conducting these studies, including timing of measurement of EDCs in gestation, accounting for potential confounders occurring during pregnancy and childhood, and accurately measuring adiposity.


Birth weight Developmental origins of health and disease Endocrine-disrupting chemicals In utero exposures Obesity 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Elizabeth E. Hatch
    • 1
    Email author
  • Jessica W. Nelson
    • 2
  • Rebecca Troisi
    • 3
  • Linda Titus
    • 4
  1. 1.Department of EpidemiologyBoston University School of Public HealthBostonUSA
  2. 2.Department of Environmental HealthBoston University School of Public HealthBostonUSA
  3. 3.Epidemiology and Biostatatistics Program, Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics, Department of Health and Human ServicesNational Cancer Institute, National Institutes of HealthBethesdaUSA
  4. 4.Department of Community & Family Medicine and PediatricsDartmouth Medical School and Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical CenterLebanonUSA

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