An Indiana scientist makes a rather provocative argument that exposure to pesticides in the womb can explain why Indiana babies conceived in July-August (Born March and April?) have lower achievement scores than the other kids.
Dr. Winchester and colleagues linked the scores of the students in grades 3 through 10 who took the Indiana Statewide Testing for Educational Progress (ISTEP) examination with the month in which each student had been conceived. The researchers found that ISTEP scores for math and language were distinctly seasonal with the lowest scores received by children who had been conceived in June through August.
“The fetal brain begins developing soon after conception. The pesticides we use to control pests in fields and our homes and the nitrates we use to fertilize crops and even our lawns are at their highest level in the summer,” said Dr. Winchester, who also directs Newborn Intensive Care Services at St. Francis Hospital in Indianapolis.
“Exposure to pesticides and nitrates can alter the hormonal milieu of the pregnant mother and the developing fetal brain,” said Dr. Winchester. “While our findings do not represent absolute proof that pesticides and nitrates contribute to lower ISTEP scores, they strongly support such a hypothesis.”
Well, that is a bold leap of faith, and use of a correlation=causation argument that I don’t appreciate in most cases. Has this kind of work been done in other countries, or in urban environments without pesticide use?
I am sure that many chemicals have subtle, but significant effects on developing fetuses. And the chemicals the authors mention have links with hypothyroidism..
Nitrates and pesticides are known to cause maternal hypothyroidism and lower maternal thyroid in pregnancy is associated with lower cognitive scores in offspring.
There is a link, but without further data, I think the conclusions are a stretch. But, something to keep in mind I guess if you live in Indiana and want to plan a baby!
Disclaimer: I was conceived in June, and was in the upper echelons of achievement through school. So, by the power of personal experience, I am predisposed to scepticism. OTH, I grew up in a big city with consistently high pollution levels throughout the year and not much pesticide exposure.
Good, I guess. The Europeans demand a lot of testing on their food, and if they can share information with the FDA on general trends, and even specific batches of food ingredients, the FDa gets a lot of information without having to setup any kind of infrastructure, or have manufacturers scream at them for insisting they perform tests they’re already performing for the European market!
In regulation, the strictest one eventually wins as long as it has enough of a market that it cannot be boycotted/ignored.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration said on Monday it signed a pact with European regulators to share more information about the safety of the food supply.
The FDA said the agreement with the European Food Safety Authority would pave the way for formally sharing confidential scientific information and that it would help protect confidential information under both regions’ laws.
I mentioned in May that Brazil had introduced compulsory licensing on a Merck AIDs drug Efavirenz, and heartily recommended that Brazil and other third world countries continue to play hardball with big pharma whenever they could. It looks like Merck decided to not bargain, but Abbott did on Kaletra. Note that Abbott got into a similar controversy with Thailand, and agreed to drop the price when Thailand rejected the Kaletra patent.
Keep it coming, third world countries. Bargaining is perfectly acceptable in the marketplace!
razil’s health ministry said Wednesday that Abbott Laboratories Inc. agreed to cut the price of its Kaletra AIDS drug by 29.5 percent.
The lower price for the drug, also known as lopinavir and ritonavir, will help Brazil supply free drugs for its AIDS treatment program.
In May, President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva authorized Brazil for the first time to break the patent on an AIDS drug, one made by Merck & Co.. It then started importing a generic version of the drug Efavirenz from India.
Under WTO rules, countries can issue a “compulsory license” to manufacture or buy generic versions of patented drugs deemed critical to public health.
Drug makers often reduce prices to keep countries as clients and avoid compulsory licenses.
This well designed and well executed study provides rather conclusive proof that High Fructose Corn Syrup, the sweetener most commonly used in North America, makes you gain weight in a way not explained by calories alone. These rats gained more weight on HFCS compared to a sucrose (regular sugar) diet even though they were fed the same calories. The effect was seen in the short term and in the long term, and abdominal fat increased the most. Gut fat, if you did not know is related to the infamous metabolic syndrome, causing diabetes, hypertension, coronary disease, etc.
High-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) accounts for as much as 40% of caloric sweeteners used in the United States. Some studies have shown that short-term access to HFCS can cause increased body weight, but the findings are mixed. The current study examined both short- and long-term effects of HFCS on body weight, body fat, and circulating triglycerides. In Experiment 1, male Sprague–Dawley rats were maintained for short term (8 weeks) on (1) 12 h/day of 8% HFCS, (2) 12 h/day 10% sucrose, (3) 24 h/day HFCS, all with ad libitum rodent chow, or (4) ad libitum chow alone. Rats with 12-h access to HFCS gained significantly more body weight than animals given equal access to 10% sucrose, even though they consumed the same number of total calories, but fewer calories from HFCS than sucrose. In Experiment 2, the long-term effects of HFCS on body weight and obesogenic parameters, as well as gender differences, were explored. Over the course of 6 or 7 months, both male and female rats with access to HFCS gained significantly more body weight than control groups. This increase in body weight with HFCS was accompanied by an increase in adipose fat, notably in the abdominal region, and elevated circulating triglyceride levels. Translated to humans, these results suggest that excessive consumption of HFCS may contribute to the incidence of obesity.
Miriam E. Bocarsly, Elyse S. Powell, Nicole M. Avena, Bartley G. Hoebel. High-fructose corn syrup causes characteristic of obesity in rats: Increased body weight, body fat and triglyceride levels. Pharmacology Biochemistry and Behavior, 2010; DOI: 10.1016/j.pbb.2010.02.012
For a more layman friendly summary of the article, read the sciencedaily release.
Do reconsider your food habits to avoid HFCS. Note that this whole corn syrup boondongle is made possible by the US government’s insistence on providing billion dollar subsidies to its farmers to grow corn while imposing tariffs on cane sugar from the tropics to make it less attractive. Free trade, my A$$.
Thanks to Tom Laskawy at grist for the blog post.
When computers, televisions, music systems, and other electronic products reach the ends of their lives, they often end up in China or other developing countries as e-waste. Such waste is a serious environmental threat in these parts of the world because of the poorly regulated conditions under which the waste is dismantled. A new study published in ES&T (DOI 10.1021/es0702925) shows that Guiyu, a major e-waste recycling center in China, has the highest documented levels of atmospheric polychlorodibenzo-p-dioxins (PCDDs) and polychlorodibenzofurans (PCDFs) in the world.
In e-waste recycling centers in China, discarded products are dipped into open pits of acid and heated over grills fueled with coal blocks to extract precious metals, such as gold. These processes often release toxic metals, such as lead, and organic compounds, such as dioxins. The emissions are not regulated, and occupational exposure is high because of the poor working conditions for e-waste recycling laborers.
In March 2007, researchers at Hong Kong Baptist University showed that soil at e-waste recycling sites in China has high levels of dioxins and polybrominated diphenyl ether (PBDE) flame retardants. (Read the paper at ES&T‘s ASAP website.) More recently, another study published in ES&T showed that the workers at these sites have blood levels of the heavy PBDE, BDE–209, 50–200 times higher than those previously reported. Whereas dioxins are potentially carcinogenic for humans, PBDEs affect thyroid metabolism and brain development.
In the current study, Ping’an Peng of the Guangzhou Institute of Geochemistry (China) and his colleagues sampled the air from Guiyu for a week in both the summer and the winter and analyzed the samples for 2,3,7,8-PCDD/Fs. The levels varied between 64.9 and 2765 picogram per cubic meter (pg/m3). The toxic equivalents (TEQ)—a value used to account for the different levels of toxicity of the individual dioxins—was 0.909–48.9 pg TEQ/m3. Given that Guiyu has no municipal or medical solid-waste incinerators, which are known to be major sources of dioxins, the authors attributed the elevated dioxin levels to e-waste recycling.
The team also found that the dioxin concentrations in the air around Guiyu were 12–18 times higher than those in Chendian, a town 9 kilometers (km) from Guiyu, and 37–133 times higher than those in Guangzhou, which is 450 km from the e-waste site. The results suggest that dioxin pollution from e-waste recycling is spreading to nearby areas.
When they calculated the exposure of adults to dioxins through inhalation, the researchers found that it (68.9 and 126 pg TEQ per kilogram per day in the summer and winter, respectively) was a whopping 15–56 times higher than the World Health Organization recommended maximum of 1–4 pg TEQ/kg/day.
Critical Windows of Development is a timeline of how the human body develops in the womb, with animal research showing when low-dose exposure to endocrine disrupting chemicals during development results in altered health outcomes.
This promises to be an easy to use database showing development timelines of infants, and the documented effects of endocrine disrupting chemicals at these timelines. The prime focus is bisphenol A and phthalates at this point in time. The Environmental Health News has more about the program here. It is not out for public consumption yet, so stay tuned…