DDT’s ‘High Blood Pressure Threat’ Lives 40 Years On

pesticide ddt
General Health

pesticide ddtExposure to a pesticide banned for more than a generation is still threatening to ruin the lives of millions of women in the US today, a new scientific study has found.

Women who were exposed in the womb to DDT – an insect control repellant used widespread across the US until its use was stopped in 1972 – were found to have an increased risk of developing high blood pressure before reaching 50.

Millions breathed in DDT for over 30 years until the chemical compound was found to be a likely carcinogen that damages the liver, nervous system and the reproductive system.

The study offers a disturbingly grim postscript to that era – the adult daughters of women who were pregnant at the time are at a greater risk for hypertension. It also offers fresh health concerns to people in and around DDT’s 21st century new battlegrounds – in Africa and Asia where it is used to combat malaria-carrying mosquitoes.

It is the first time a study, conducted by UC Davis and Berkeley’s Public Health Institute, has traced the link of DDT exposure and hypertension back to the womb.

The findings came after a larger study of 15,000 San Francisco Bay Area women who gave samples of their serum during their pregnancies from 1959 to 1967.

The project examines long-term environmental exposures in generations of women. DDT’s effects on men are expected at a future date.

For the latest study, 567 30-40 year old daughters of women in the original study were quizzed about their health. About 110 women said they had hypertension, with 70 of them ingesting medication to tackle the health issue.

“The people who were in their moms’ wombs cannot change their exposures,” said Barbara Cohn, the senior author of the study, which was published in the Environmental Health Perspectives journal. We need to think really hard about the introduction or use of any chemical in our lives, and really decide we really need it before we use it.”

Based on the study, daughters of mothers with high levels of DDT were much morel likely to betaking medications for hypertension than daughters of mothers with lower levels of DDT.

“What you have is some toxic compounds that were toxic at much lower doses than people thought at the time they were using them, are banned and are persisting in the environment and the body,” said David Jacobs, a public health professor at the University of Minnesota and a pesticides expert who was not part of the study.

It is unclear exactly how DDT acts in the body to lead to hypertension, but a UC Davis scientist plans to examine this in experiments on mice.