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Study Examines Three Generations of Pesticide Exposure

Update Date: Jul 24, 2014 03:32 PM EDT

Exposure to dangerous pesticides could affect the health of future generations, a new study reported. According to the researchers from Washington State University, what one's great-grandparents were exposed to can increase one's risk of developing different kinds of diseases.

"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," stated Michael Skinner, WSU professor and founder of its Center for Reproductive Biology, reported in the press release.

For this study, Skinner and colleagues focused on the pesticide methoxychlor, which is also known as Chemform, Methoxo, Metox or Moxie. It was first used in 1948 and widely used to replace DDT in the 1970s on crops, plants, livestock and pets. In 2003, methoxychlor was banned due to toxicity that could damage people's endocrine systems.

The team exposed the pesticides at typically high levels to rats that were gestating. The rats were then bred through three generations. The researchers found that in the second and third generations, risk of kidney disease, ovary disease and obesity increased. The researchers believed that early exposure during pregnancy could have affected how the offspring's genes are turned on or off. This process is known as transgenerational epigenetic inheritance.

Even though the study was conducted in mice models, the researchers stated that previous human exposure to the pesticide could explain the country's high obesity rate. The study, which was funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), was published in the journal, PLOS ONE.

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