It is increasingly evident that environmental factors are a veritable Pandora's box from which new concerns and complications continue to emerge. Although previously considered the domain of toxicologists, it is now clear that an understanding of the effects of the environment on reproduction requires a far broader range of expertise and that, at least for endocrine-disrupting chemicals, many of the tenets of classical toxicology need to be revisited. Indeed, because of the wide range of reproductive effects induced by these chemicals, interest among reproductive biologists has grown rapidly: in 2000, the program for the annual Society for the Study of Reproduction meeting included a single minisymposium on the fetal origins of adult disease, one platform session on endocrine disruption, and 23 toxicology poster presentations. In contrast, environmental factors featured prominently at the 2009 meeting, with strong representation in the plenary, minisymposia, platform, and poster sessions. Clearly, a lot has happened in a decade, and environmental issues have become an increasingly important research focus for reproductive biologists. In this review, we summarize some of the inherent difficulties in assessing environmental effects on reproductive performance, focusing on the endocrine disruptor bisphenol A (BPA) to illustrate important emerging concerns. In addition, because the BPA experience serves as a prototype for scientific activism, public education, and advocacy, these issues are also discussed.
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Vol. 81 • No. 5