Pesticide exposure in the womb 'linked to high blood pressure in adulthood'
Anna Seward - Apr 2013
A study has linked prenatal exposure to DDT to an increased risk of high blood pressure.
Females who were exposed to a pesticide called DDT while in the womb appear to face a significant increase in their risk of high blood pressure in adulthood, a study has found.
DDT (dichlorodiplhenyltrichloroethane) was first created in 1874 and was used to control malaria and typhus during the second world war, before becoming widespread as an agricultural insecticide.
It has since been identified as a major environmental and health hazard and is now banned for agricultural use around the world.
Previous studies have linked DDT exposure to persistent high blood pressure, or 'hypertension', in adults, but the latest study in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives is the first to link prenatal exposure to DDT with hypertension in adults.
Researchers at the University of California, Davis' department of environmental toxicology looked at concentrations of DDT in blood samples provided by women who received pregnancy care in San Francisco between 1959 and 1967.
They also surveyed these women's adult daughters to see whether they had developed high blood pressure.
Results show that women who were exposed to high levels of DDT while still inside the womb were three times more likely to have been diagnosed with hypertension than those who were not exposed to the pesticide.
The findings could have important implications, as traces of the pesticide remain in the food system thanks to its persistence in the environment.
Lead study author Professor Michele La Merrill said: "The prenatal period is exquisitely sensitive to environmental disturbance because that's when the tissues are developing."
The researcher confirmed that women born before the DDT ban "have an increased risk of hypertension that might be explained by increased DDT exposure", and that the children of people living in parts of the world where DDT is still used to control malaria "may have an increased risk as well".
Unfortunately, there are many chemicals such as DDT in the environment as a result of indiscriminate use before the health risks were fully understood.
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For this reason, it is used to eliminate toxins during pharmaceutical production and water purification and is likely to be of interest to those concerned about their exposure to environmental toxins.