Great attention has been paid in recent years to the harmful effects of various chemicals that interfere with our natural hormone balance, collectively known as endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs) or endocrine disruptors. The effects on the reproductive system of bisphenol A (BPA) and phthalates have received particular attention: while they have a short half-life, they are so widespread that human exposure can be considered as continuous. Evidence is often limited to the animal model, disregarding the likelihood of human exposure to a mixture of contaminants. Data from animal models show that maternal exposure probably has harmful effects on the male fetus, with an increased risk of urogenital developmental abnormalities. After birth, exposure is associated with changes in the hypothalamic-pituitary-testicular axis, hindering the development and function of the male genital pathways through the mediation of inflammatory mechanisms and oxidative stress. The epidemiological and clinical evidence, while generally confirming the association between reproductive abnormalities and some phthalate esters and BPA, is more contradictory, with wildly different findings. The aim of this review is therefore to provide an update of the potential mechanisms of the damage caused by BPA and phthalates to reproductive function and a review of the clinical evidence currently available in the literature.
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