Testing for Estrogenic Substances
Some chemical compounds found in the (aquatic) environment influence the hormonal systems of organisms. This group is often referred to as hormone disrupting or estrogenic substances. It concerns a group of substances with diverse chemical properties. Natural hormones are excreted by humans and animals. Synthetic hormones used in medicines also end up in the environment along with hormone disrupting substances such as bisphenol A, alkyl phenols, certain phthalates and brominated flame retardants.
Interference with hormones in reproductive systems can lead to disruption in development, behaviour and reproduction. This has been widely observed in snails, fish and frogs, with extreme cases leading to infertility or limited reproduction.
The European Union is aware of the significance of estrogenic substances in the aquatic environment. As a result national and international programmes have been set up to monitor these. ‘Endocrine disruption’ is one of OSPAR's selection criteria in their list of hazardous substances.