Modern living challenges female reproductive health. We are witnessing a rise in reproductive disorders and drop in birth rates across the world. The reasons for these manifestations are multifaceted and most likely include continuous exposure to an ever-increasing number of chemicals. The cause–effect relationships between chemical exposure and female reproductive disorders, however, have proven problematic to determine. This has made it difficult to assess the risks chemical exposures pose to a woman’s reproductive development and function. To address this challenge, this review uses the adverse outcome pathway (AOP) concept to summarize current knowledge about how chemical exposure can affect female reproductive health. We have a special focus on effects on the ovaries, since they are essential for lifelong reproductive health in women, being the source of both oocytes and several reproductive hormones, including sex steroids. The AOP framework is widely accepted as a new tool for toxicological safety assessment that enables better use of mechanistic knowledge for regulatory purposes. AOPs equip assessors and regulators with a pragmatic network of linear cause–effect relationships, enabling the use of a wider range of test method data in chemical risk assessment and regulation. Based on current knowledge, we propose ten putative AOPs relevant for female reproductive disorders that can be further elaborated and potentially be included in the AOPwiki. This effort is an important step towards better safeguarding the reproductive health of all girls and women.
- Adverse outcome pathway
- Endocrine-disrupting chemicals
- Ovarian dysgenesis syndrome