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Fetus’ Exposure to Pesticide Increases Risk for Hypertension, Study Finds

Update Date: Mar 12, 2013 02:30 PM EDT

A new study finds that pregnant women's exposure to the pesticide DTT that was commonly used from the 1940s to 1972 leads to a higher risk for high blood pressure in their children. DTT was a chemical used to kill bugs that spoiled crops and was banned in 1972 due to its dangerous side effects. The study, which took data from a larger study titled Child Health and Development Studies, concluded that the consequences of DTT are present in the children of the mothers that lived in the areas with exposure to the pesticide.

Researchers from University of California Davis analyzed the data of 567 women in their 30s to 40s. These women were the offspring of women who participated in the larger study that measured the levels of exposure to the pesticide. The larger study collected the blood samples from 15,000 pregnant women living in the San Francisco bay area during the thirty years that the pesticide was used with the purpose of finding intergenerational consequences of contact with these environmental chemicals. Based from the findings in this study, the current researchers were able to link their participants to their mothers' exposure during pregnancy.

Of the 567 in the sample set, 110 women stated that they have had issues with their high blood pressure, also known as hypertension. 70 of the participants were currently taking medication to treat hypertension. Researchers found that daughters of mothers who had a reported higher serum level of DDT have a higher risk for developing high blood pressure.  Therefore, women who were exposed in utero to the pesticide should be extra careful about their diets so that their risks for hypertension do not multiply rapidly. Hypertension is manageable through a strict diet and exercise. However, if left unchecked, it can exacerbate or lead to several physical illnesses such as strokes, heart attacks, heart failures, and kidney complications.

DTT was finally banned in 1972 after it was linked to causing cancer and severely impairing the liver, nervous system and reproductive system. Although DTT has long been banned, it does have a slow degrading rate, which means that the environment was most likely still contaminated with the pesticide post 1972.

Despite these detrimental factors of DTT, it is still used in several third world countries due to its effectiveness in killing insects.

The study was published in the Environmental Health Perspectives

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