Dr Aneck-Hahn is a member of the Department of Environmental Chemical Pollution and Health Research Unit at the University of Pretoria. Biomonitoring studies have shown that traces of environmental contaminants such as endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) can be detected in bodily tissues and fluids such as placental tissue, breast milk, urine, blood and saliva.

Serious concerns have been raised about the potential health risks associated with endocrine-disrupting chemical exposure in the healthcare sector.

The Endocrine Disruptor Screening and Testing Advisory Committee defines EDCs as an exogenous substance of mixture that influences the function(s) of the endocrine system, causing adverse effects at the level of the organism, its progeny, populations or subpopulations of organisms. EDCs are used in industrial solvents/lubricants and their by-products, pesticides, fungicides, pharmaceutical products (e.g. paracetamol and diclofenac), plastics and plasticisers (e.g. bisphenol and phthalates).


Routes of exposure include diet (meat, dairy, fish and pharmaceutical products), water, air (industrial pollution) and skin or dermal contact (cosmetics/pharmaceutical and medical products).

According to Dr Aneck-Hanh endocrine-related diseases and disorders (e.g. low semen quality, genital malformations, endocrine-related cancers [testicular, prostate, breast and ovarian], neurodevelopmental, obesity and type 2 diabetes) are increasing. Studies show that women, neonates and young children are at greatest risk of the effects of exposure.

Concerns have been raised about the potential health risks associated with EDC exposure in the healthcare sector. Examples of EDCs used in the healthcare space include: Blood bags, nutrition pockets, venous catheters, disposable gloves, tubing, haemodialysers, new-born incubators syringes and nebulisers.

A number of countries have issued directives to restrict the use of EDCs in medical devices. According to these directives, devices that contain e.g. phthalates, have to be labelled as either carcinogenic, mutagenic or toxic to the reproduction system. Companies also have to justify the use of such devices containing EDCs, especially if intended to treat neonates, children as well as pregnant and nursing women.