According to the study, published in Environmental Health Perspectives, women exposed to a certain type of pesticides, organochlorines, are at a higher risk of developing a condition known as endometriosis – which leads to numerous reproductive issues.
Perhaps most interesting about their findings, women tested still had evidence of these pesticides in their bodies despite them being banned from use in the U.S. for the past several decades.
Endometriosis is a painful condition often associated with infertility in women where the endometrium, or tissue inside the uterus or womb, grows outside and attaches itself to other organs and parts of the body including the ovaries, fallopian tubes, and the pelvic cavity. In addition to pelvic and menstrual pain, the noncancerous condition can cause infertility. This condition is led by estrogen, which led researchers with the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences to wonder how pesticides, known to cause estrogenic changes, could be impacting endometriosis risks.
The researchers used information from the Women’s Risk of Endometriosis for their work, looking at women between the ages of 18 to 49. Among them, 248 had recently been diagnosed with endometriosis and another 538 without served as the control group.
Two organochlorine pesticides, beta-hexachlorocyclohexane and mirex, were associated with a 30 to 70% increased risk of the disorder.
“The take-home message from our study,” said lead researcher Kristen Upson, PhD, “is that the persistent environmental chemicals, even those used in the past, may affect the health of the current generation of reproductive-age women with regard to a hormonally driven disease.”
The researchers knew beforehand that these pesticides had estrogenic properties; other lab studies had indicated they could affect hormone production. With this latest research, however, we know that they can significantly impact women’s health.
“There is an increasing public and scientific concern that certain chlorinated compounds, recognized as environmental pollutants, may cause estrogen-related neoplastic disease in humans. The main hypothesis has been that certain organochlorines, through their estrogenic actions, might cause breast cancer.”
Organochlorines (including DDT) have been banned for several decades but are still wreaking havoc on people’s health. And needless to say, this is one one of many nasty effects of pesticides. These chemicals, which taint most of the conventional produce and crop supply, have been tied to infertility, cancer, obesity, birth defects, and an overall shut down of the immune system.