Uncovering Evidence: Associations between Environmental Contaminants and Disparities in Women's Health.


Over the years, industrial accidents and military actions have led to unintentional, large-scale, high-dose human exposure to environmental contaminants with endocrine-disrupting action. These historical events, in addition to laboratory studies, suggest that exposure to toxicants such as dioxins and polychlorinated biphenyls negatively impact the reproductive system and likely influence the development of gynecologic diseases. Although high-level exposure to a single toxicant is rare, humans living in industrialized countries are continuously exposed to a complex mixture of manmade and naturally produced endocrine disruptors, including persistent organic pollutants and heavy metals. Since minorities are more likely to live in areas with known environmental contamination; herein, we conducted a literature review to identify potential associations between toxicant exposure and racial disparities in women's health. Evidence within the literature suggests that the body burden of environmental contaminants, especially in combination with inherent genetic variations, likely contributes to previously observed racial disparities in women's health conditions such as breast cancer, endometriosis, polycystic ovarian syndrome, uterine fibroids, and premature birth.