The presence of human-made chemical contaminants in the environment has increased rapidly during the past 70 years. Harmful effects of such contaminants were first reported in the late 1950s in wildlife and later in humans. These effects are predominantly induced by endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs), chemicals that mimic the actions of endogenous hormones and leave marks at several levels of organization in organisms, from physiological outcomes (phenotypes) to molecular alterations, including epigenetic modifications. Epigenetic mechanisms play pivotal roles in the developmental processes that contribute to determining adult phenotypes, through so-called epigenetic programming. While there is increasing evidence that EDC exposure during sensitive periods of development can perturb epigenetic programming, it is unclear whether these changes are truly predictive of adverse outcomes. Understanding the mechanistic links between EDC-induced epigenetic changes and phenotypic endpoints will be critical for providing improved regulatory tools to better protect the environment and human health from exposure to EDCs.


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