A new study by Washington State University researchers found that TCDD dioxin, when exposed to one generation of pregnant rats, had a multi-generational effect resulting in a multitude of diseases. These include diseases of the kidney and ovaries as well as fertility and growth difficulties.
Dioxin is an industrial pollutant linked to cancer and reproductive disorders. For this study, the researchers used a particular dioxin called TCDD—a major component of the herbicide Agent Orange made infamous by the Vietnam War as well as recent events in agribusiness.
“Not only does the individual exposed get the disease,” says senior author Michael Skinner, “but it’s transmitted to great-grandchildren with no exposure.”
Higher Rates of Disease Across Generations
In a 2011 study, researchers determined that pregnant mice had offspring (three generations) that experienced fertility problems. The 2012 Washington State study reinforces those findings and marks the diseases that resulted through generations.
- First generation offspring experienced higher rates of prostate disease and two types of ovarian diseases compared to control groups.
- Third generation rats experienced eight times greater rates of abnormalities in puberty.
- Forty-seven percent of third generation females experienced early puberty, compared to 6 percent in the control group.
- Third generation male and female rats had increased rates of kidney and ovarian disease, respectively.
- The great-grandkids had sperm with modified gene expression in 50 regions of DNA.
While the scientists limited the pregnant rats to small amounts of dioxin exposure, these levels are still high compared to most people’s exposure from the environment. According to University of Virginia biochemist Jennifer Wolstenholme (who was not involved in the study), humans and rats eliminate dioxin from their bodies differently. Therefore, “we cannot know from these studies if people are similarly at increased risk for these same diseases.”
The researchers add, however, that their study still pertains to “human populations that are exposed to dioxin and are experiencing declines in fertility and increases in adult onset of disease, with a potential to transmit them to later generations.”
Where does Dioxin Come From?
Nature can produce dioxin—such as through volcanoes and forest fires—but human activities by far result in more emissions. Such activities include but are not limited to:
- Trash incineration
- Polyvinyl chloride (PVC) plastics production
- Bleaching of paper, cotton, diapers, and feminine hygiene products
- Monsanto and Dow herbicides, which the EPA has admitted as being the seventh greatest source of dioxin in the U.S.
For a quarter of a century, the Environmental Protection Agency has dragged its feet in releasing a report on dioxin, thanks to pressure from industrialized agriculture (Big Ag). Since 1945, Monsanto and Dow have sprayed 300 million pounds of dioxin-containing herbicides on 400 million acres of American land, which explains why the chemical is even found in animal products like eggs, dairy, and meat. Monsanto even had to pay $93 million to residents of Nitro, West Virginia in damages relating to the herbicides used there.
But that hasn’t stopped the company from pushing the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to approve their dioxin-containing 2,4-D herbicide resistant GMO crops. Go figure they are responsible for these “superweeds” in the first place.
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