Theodora Colborn studied how chemicals affect organisms as they develop and reproduce during the twentieth and twenty first centuries in the US. By the 1940s, researchers had reported that chemicals from agricultural and industrial processes affected how wild organisms developed, but in 1991, Colborn organized the Wingspread Conference in Racine, Wisconsin, at which a group of scientists classed these chemicals as environmentally harmful substances. Colborn and her colleagues called those chemicals endocrine disruptors, as they mimic or block the body's endocrine system. After scientists identified these chimicals and showed that they harm humans and wildlife, US Congress passed several acts to regulate these chemicals and to protect both wildlife and humans from their harmful effects.

In 1996, the US Congress mandated that the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) create and regulate the Endocrine Disruptor Screening Program. The program tests industrial and agricultural chemicals for hormonal impacts in humans and in wildlife that may disrupt organisms' endocrine systems. The endocrine system regulates the release of small amounts of chemical substances called hormones to keep the body functioning normally. Some chemicals can impede the endocrine system's function by mimicking or blocking hormone reception, which can disrupt processes of development and reproduction and harm organisms. As of 2017, the Endocrine Disruptor Screening Program is the largest US program to identify and regulate chemicals that affect the normal production of sex hormones like estrogen and androgen, which can have long-term effects on development and reproduction.

Developmental Effects of Endocrine-Disrupting Chemicals in Wildlife and Humans, was published in 1993 in Environmental Health Perspectives. In the article, the authors present an account of two decades' worth of scientific research that describes the effects of certain pollutants on the health of wildlife, domestic animals, and humans, particularly when exposure takes place during embryonic growth. The term endocrine disruptor was coined in the article to describe the chemical pollutants that target the development and function of the endocrine system. Since its publication, Developmental Effects has increased research interest in endocrine disruption and has raised awareness among the general public, the scientific community, and government organizations about the effects that some chemicals may have on development and reproduction.

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