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Pesticide Linked to Three Generations of Disease

Jul 25, 2014 10:23 AM EDT

Researchers from Washington State University have found that the pesticide methoxychlor is linked to adult onset kidney disease, ovarian disease and obesity among three generations.

"What your great-grandmother was exposed to during pregnancy, like the pesticide methoxychlor, may promote a dramatic increase in your susceptibility to develop disease, and you will pass this on to your grandchildren in the absence of any continued exposures," lead study author Michael Skinner said in a news release.

Methoxychlor - also known as Chemform, Methoxo, Metox or Moxie - was used in the 1970s as a "safer" replacement for dichloro-diphenyl-trichloroethane (DDT). It was used on crops, ornamental plants, livestock and pets. Toxicants like methoxychlor are suspected to be the cause of the current declining honeybee population in the United States, particularly the neonicotinoid pesticide.

The United States banned the methoxychlor pesticide in 2003 due to its toxicity and ability to disrupt endocrine systems, however many countries worldwide continue to use it today.

Skinner and his colleagues decided to expose gestating rats to methoxychlor at a range typical of high environmental exposures. They found that the incidence of kidney disease, ovary disease and obesity in offspring increased across three generations. Unfortunately for great-grandchildren, they were more likely to experience multiple diseases, not just one.

The researchers believe that the pesticide affects how genes are turned on and off in an animal, even though its DNA and gene sequences remain unchanged - a phenomenon called transgenerational epigenetic inheritance.

Additionally, they found that these changes are mostly passed down through the female.

This isn't the first time Skinner's team has noticed epigenetic effects as a result of exposure to environmental toxins. Other research has linked such biological impacts from DDT, plastics, pesticides, fungicides, dioxins, hydrocarbons and the plasticizer bisphenol-A or BPA. So based on previous studies, the current findings linking methoxychlor to a host of diseases seems more than plausible.

Obesity, kidney and ovarian disease aren't the only health problems we have to worry about as a result of pesticide exposure. A recent article in Nature World News also describes a possible link between pesticides and autism.

The current study's findings were published in the journal PLOS ONE on July 24.

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