Jerrold (Jerry) Heindel, Ph.D. (http://www.niehs.nih.gov/research/supported/dert/phb/heindel/index.cfm)
Health Scientist Administrator
The endocrine system is one of the body’s main communication networks. The ovaries, testes, adrenal glands, thyroid, pituitary gland, and pancreas are all part of the endocrine system, which produces hormones that direct communication and coordination among tissues throughout the body.
Chemicals known as endocrine disruptors can mimic or interfere with hormones in the body. These chemicals are found in many everyday products including some plastic bottles and containers, food-can liners, detergents, toys, cosmetics, and pesticides. There is concern that exposure to endocrine disruptors may increase risk for some cancers, cause male and female reproductive system problems, and play a role in various diseases.
What NIEHS is doing
NIEHS funds more than 180 grants aimed at characterizing how endocrine disruptors influence human health. With almost $57 million in federal funding, knowledge gained through this research area may help in the development of prevention and intervention strategies that reduce the adverse effects of endocrine disruptors.
Grantees use laboratory and human studies to investigate endocrine disruptors that affect the hormones estrogen, androgen, and progesterone as well as those with thyroid-like activity. Researchers are also identifying biological markers of endocrine disruptor exposure and translating data into models that provide a picture of the amount of exposure required for adverse health effects.
NIEHS funds grants that are studying the following types of endocrine disruptors:
- Bisphenol A (BPA): a chemical frequently used in plastics and epoxy resins. NIEHS’ BPA Research Program is funding a variety of research grants to investigate the health effects of BPA in human studies and animal model systems.
- Dioxins: byproducts of some manufacturing and incineration processes.
- Organophosphates: compounds used in many insecticides, herbicides, and nerve gases.
- Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs): chemicals used in electrical equipment. They persist in the environment even though banned over 30 years ago.
- Dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane(DDT): a pesticide banned in 1972 that is still found in the environment today.
For additional information on what NIEHS grantees are doing, visit our Who We Fund tool.