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 Prenatal Pesticide Exposure Tied to Birth Size

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PostSubject: Prenatal Pesticide Exposure Tied to Birth Size   Sun Jun 19, 2011 4:49 pm

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Prenatal Pesticide Exposure Tied to Birth Size


NEW YORK (Reuters Health) Jun 14 - Exposure to even moderate amounts
of certain pesticides during pregnancy may affect infants' birth size, a
new study suggests.
Researchers found that among nearly 500 newborns
whose umbilical cord blood was tested for pesticide residues, those with
higher levels tended to be smaller at birth.
The chemicals in question include DDT and three
other organochlorines -- an older group of pesticides that are now
banned or restricted in the U.S. and other developed countries, after
research linked them to cancer and other potential health risks.
However, the pesticides persist in the
environment for years. In the U.S., diet is the main potential source of
exposure, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
(CDC) -- with fatty foods, like dairy products and oily fish, topping
the list.
In the new study, researchers found that for each
10-fold increase in any of the four pesticides in newborns' cord blood,
birth weight dipped by roughly 2 to 4 ounces.
Higher levels of DDT were also linked to a
decrease in head circumference, while another pesticide --
hexachlorobenzene (HCB), once used as a fungicide -- was tied to a
shorter birth length.
The findings, reported in Pediatrics, online June 13, don't prove that the pesticides themselves hindered fetal growth.
One problem, the researchers say, is that people
are exposed to a "huge variety of chemicals" -- in the environment,
household products and food, for example.
So higher pesticide levels could simply be a marker of higher chemical exposures in general.
In addition, past studies on pesticides and birth
size have come to conflicting conclusions, write the researchers, led
by Dr. Maria-Jose Lopez-Espinosa of the Center for Public Health
Research in Valencia, Spain.
Still, they say their findings raise concerns,
especially since women in the study appeared to have relatively moderate
exposure to pesticides during pregnancy. So the link between pesticides
and infants' birth size doesn't reflect "extreme" exposures, the
researchers write.
The findings are based on 494 infants born in Valencia between 2003 and 2006.
When the researchers looked at newborns whose DDT
level was above the median, or midpoint, for the group, they found that
the infants' head circumference was 0.1 inches smaller versus infants
with DDT levels below the median.
When it came to HCB, each 10-fold increase in cord-blood levels was linked to a 0.2-inch decrease in birth length.
All four pesticides were tied to decreases in
birth weight. The other two pesticides were DDE (a compound related to
DDT) and beta-hexachlorocyclohexane.
While it's not clear that the pesticides are the
cause of the birth size differences, it is plausible, according to Dr.
Lopez-Espinosa's team. The chemicals are thought to interfere with
thyroid hormones.
According to the CDC, Americans' blood levels of organochlorine pesticides are much lower now than 30 years ago.
In a 2003-2004 government study, most Americans
had no detectable amount of DDT and about half had no detectable
beta-HCH. On the other hand, most did have detectable DDE -- which
remains in the body longer than DDT -- as well as HCB.

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