In the latest study to link pesticide exposure to health risks in the unborn, French scientists have found that chlordecone (kepone) could increase the risk of premature delivery by 60 percent. It’s believed the highly-chlorinated pesticide does this by mimicking estrogen and progesterone, female hormones, essentially replacing them during child maturation.
Published in the American Journal of Epidemiology, the research analyzed associations between chlordecone exposure and gestation periods among participants in the Timoun Mother-Child Cohort Study, which was conducted in Guadeloupe between 2004 and 2007.
Chlordecone, according to the study, is commonly used in controlling the banana root borer in the French West Indies, where the island of Guadeloupe is located.
According to the study:
“A 1-log10 increase in chlordecone concentration was associated with a decreased length of gestation (−0.27 weeks; 95% confidence interval: −0.50, −0.03) and an increased risk of preterm birth (60%; 95% confidence interval: 10, 130).”
This means exposure to the pesticide could be to blame for increasing the risk of premature birth by 60 percent.
“These associations may result from the estrogen-like and progestin-like properties of chlordecone,” wrote the researchers. “These results are of public health relevance because of the prolonged persistence of chlordecone in the environment and the high background rate of preterm births in this population.”
Chlordecone was banned in the US in 1976, but is still used in Central and South America, the Caribbean, and Puerto Rico. The long-term effects of exposure may not be known for some time, as the remnants of the pesticide are slow to degrade and remain in soil and even waterways long after the use has subsided.
As Christina Sarich reported recently, the banning of a pesticide doesn’t necessarily mean it’s havoc-wreaking days are over. A study in Environmental Health Perspectives indicated chlordane, another banned pesticide, is still affecting young children today, potentially creating behavioral issues and even autism in those who were exposed in the womb.
A few years ago, Anthony Gucciardi reported on Canadian research that found 93 percent of pregnant Canadian mothers had pesticides in their bloodstream. That figure is arguably higher now. If a mother’s blood is pumping toxins into her baby, you can bet the child will feel the effects of them—both in the womb and potentially for years to come.