Research Article: Effects of persistent environmental pollutants on the HPA-axis

Date Published: February 24, 2012

Publisher: BioMed Central

Author(s): Karin Zimmer.


Partial Text

Many persistent chemicals which are abundant in nature accumulate through food webs and are transferred to the offspring of pregnant females through the placenta and mother’s milk. Some of these chemicals can adversely affect neurodevelopment, the immune system or act as endocrine disruptors.

Studies in sheep and goats showed that exposure to PCBs during foetal life and the suckling period caused altered cortisol levels in the blood of both fetuses and adult animals. This indicates that exposure during these sensitive, initial stages of life may have long-term consequences. The findings are important because altered cortisol balance during early life may predispose to development of disease in adulthood, such as diabetes and cardiovascular diseases.

It was concluded that the development of the HPA axis is affected by exposure to PCBs and that cortisol synthesis appears to be a sensitive target for POPs. The effects of POPs on this system were different in in vitro and in vivo studies and also varied according to life stage in vivo. It remains for further studies to assess whether these POP-induced effects are associated with health risks in humans and animals.