Impacts of endocrine disrupting chemicals on human health

The research team at the Pask Lab, University of Melbourne are examining how the environment impacts on human reproductive health.

Collaborating with CAPIM has increased the research team’s exposure to potential industry and government partners, particularly through events such as the recent CAPIM Research Showcase. Working with CAPIM has also provided opportunity to connect with researchers in the field, access to networks and increased exposure of the research.

About the research: disorders of sexual development are amongst the most common birth defects in humans and have profound consequences for the physical and psychological health of affected individuals. The incidence of these disorders is on the rise, along with an increase in human infertility, which now affects 1 in 6 Australian couples. This decrease in reproductive health has been linked to our increased exposure to endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) in the environment that affect how our hormones function. These EDCs are all around us; in the water we drink, the food we consume, the personal care products we use, the clothes we wear and even the air we breathe.

The research investigates how these chemicals affect hormonal pathways that control reproductive development. As part of the research portfolio, the team have identified how exposure to EDCs during pregnancy can impact development of the gonads and external genitalia of both male and female fetuses, leading to disorders such as testicular dysgenesis and hypospadias, a urethral disorder of the penis. Research shows that exposures to EDCs not only impact the individual being directly exposed, but can also result in heritable changes in future, unexposed generations. EDC exposures also have implications for Australian marsupials as their unique reproductive strategy makes them particularly sensitive to the effects of EDCs. This research is defining the effects of prevalent EDCs in the Australian environment on marsupial reproductive health.

Although EDC exposure is widespread, regulatory organisations lack the evidence to develop exposure policies and testing to assess toxicity is slow, costly and lacks sensitivity. This research team is developing tests to rapidly determine which chemicals or products have the potential to act as reproductive toxins. The tests can scan complex environmental samples that contain multiple EDCs from a variety of sources.

Click here to learn about the plastic EDCs in aluminum cans


Professor Andrew Pask  |   Dr Deidre Mattiske  |   Dr Gerard Tarulli

The Pask Lab: Evolution, development and reproduction



 Cripps SM, Mattiske DM, Pask AJ. (2021) Erectile Dysfunction in Men on the Rise: Is There a Link with Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals? Sexual Development15(1-3):187-212. doi: 10.1159/000516600.

Cook, L. E., Chen, Y., Renfree, M. B. & Pask, A. J. (2020). Long-term maternal exposure to atrazine in the drinking water reduces penis length in the tammar wallaby Macropus eugenii. Reproduction Fertility and Development, 32(13), pp. 1099-1107. doi:10.1071/RD20158

Stewart, M. K., Mattiske, D. M. & Pask, A. J. (2020). Exogenous Oestrogen Impacts Cell Fate Decision in the Developing Gonads: A Potential Cause of Declining Human Reproductive Health. International Journal of Molecular Sciences, 21(21), pp. 23-. doi:10.3390/ijms21218377

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