Endocrine-disrupting chemicals have the ability to interfere with and alter functions of the hormone system, leading to adverse effects on reproduction, growth and development. Despite growing concerns over their now ubiquitous presence in the environment, endocrine-related human health effects remain largely outside of comparative human toxicity characterization frameworks as applied for example in life cycle impact assessments. In this paper, we propose a new methodological framework to consistently integrate endocrine-related health effects into comparative human toxicity characterization. We present two quantitative and operational approaches for extrapolating towards a common point of departure from both in vivo and dosimetry-adjusted in vitro endocrine-related effect data and deriving effect factors as well as corresponding characterization factors for endocrine-active/endocrine-disrupting chemicals. Following the proposed approaches, we calculated effect factors for 323 chemicals, reflecting their endocrine potency, and related characterization factors for 157 chemicals, expressing their relative endocrine-related human toxicity potential. Developed effect and characterization factors are ready for use in the context of chemical prioritization and substitution as well as life cycle impact assessment and other comparative assessment frameworks. Endocrine-related effect factors were found comparable to existing effect factors for cancer and non-cancer effects, indicating that (1) the chemicals’ endocrine potency is not necessarily higher or lower than other effect potencies and (2) using dosimetry-adjusted effect data to derive effect factors does not consistently overestimate the effect of potential endocrine disruptors. Calculated characterization factors span over 8-11 orders of magnitude for different substances and emission compartments and are dominated by the range in endocrine potencies.
- Endocrine-disrupting chemicals
- Human toxicity
- Characterization factor
- Life cycle impact assessment