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Thyroid hormones (THs) are required for normal brain and somatic development and for the proper regulation of physiology in both children and adults. Thyroid function is controlled by the dynamic interrelationships between the hypothalamus, the pituitary and the thyroid. These dynamic relationships maintain circulating levels of THs within a narrow range under normal conditions. Normally, there is likely to be a tight relationship between changes in circulating levels of THs and changes in TH action in various target tissues. This relationship is maintained by tissue-level mechanisms that include TH metabolism and transport. Environmental chemicals that interfere with TH signaling mechanisms (Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals, EDCs) may produce adverse effects both in the individual and in a population. Because of the complex nature of the regulation of thyroid function and TH action, the consequences of EDC exposure is also likely to be complex and our ability to understand these effects as well as to screen for potential EDCs must consider this complexity. Specifically, if there are chemicals in the environment that directly interfere with TH action through their receptors but do not affect circulating TH levels, they would not be identified as thyroid toxicants by currently applied screening methods or by epidemiological studies. The goal of this review is therefore to identify the issues that must be clearly resolved before effective risk assessment can be performed.








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