Washington: Infant girls exposed to high levels of the pesticide DDT while still inside the womb have a tripled risk for hypertension in adulthood, according to a new study led by the University of California, Davis.
Previous studies have shown that adults exposed to DDT (dichlorodiplhenyltrichloroethane) are at an increased risk of high blood pressure.
"The prenatal period is exquisitely sensitive to environmental disturbance because that`s when the tissues are developing," said study lead author Michele La Merrill, an assistant professor in the UC Davis Department of Environmental Toxicology.
La Merrill said that traces of DDT, a persistent organic pollutant, also remain in the food system, primarily in fatty animal products.
The study examined concentrations of DDT in blood samples collected from women who had participated in the Child Health and Development Studies, an ongoing project of the nonprofit Public Health Institute. The CHDS recruited women who sought obstetric care through Kaiser Permanente Foundation Health Plan in the San Francisco Bay Area between 1959 and 1967. They also surveyed the adult daughters of those women to learn if they had developed hypertension.
"Evidence from our study shows that women born in the U.S. before DDT was banned have an increased risk of hypertension that might be explained by increased DDT exposure," said La Merrill. "And the children of people in areas where DDT is still used may have an increased risk, as well."
The study was recently published in Environmental Health Perspectives.