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Daily News Blog

14
May

DDT Metabolite (DDE) and Other Banned Pesticides Found in Blood Sample of African American Women in Detroit

(Beyond Pesticides, May 14, 2020) Four banned organochlorine pesticides (OCP) are present in over 60% of a cohort of reproductive-age, black women in Detroit, according to a study published in Environmental Research by Boston University School of Public Health (BUSPH). OCPs are lipophilic (fat combining/dissolving), environmentally steadfast chemicals linked to harmful health effects. This study stresses the importance of monitoring pesticide accumulation, particularly regarding environmentally persistent chemicals and their metabolization via indirect exposure routes. Lead author Olivia Orta, Ph.D., a postdoctoral research associate in the Department of Epidemiology at BUSPH, highlights the significance of water monitoring—especially in light of historically disproportionately high hazards for people of color (e.g., Flint, Michigan)—and testing sources prone to OCP contamination. She remarks, “The sources that we identified as potential OCP correlates should be tested for pesticide contamination,[…] especially drinking water.”

Environmental contaminants, like organochlorine pesticides (OCP), can persist in the environment decades after use stops, as OCPs have greater chemical stability and gradual attenuation. Minority populations are at higher exposure risk of environmental contaminants (i.e., pesticide) exposure that can catalyze adverse health and birth effects, especially in metropolitan areas. Although black women endure higher body burdens than other U.S. populations, there remains a lack of research surrounding the association.

Boston University researchers enrolled participants using 2010-2012 baseline data from the Study of Environment, Lifestyle, and Fibroids (SELF) on black women, aged 23-35 years, in Detroit, Michigan (metropolitan area). Researchers collected “non-fasting” blood samples from 742 participants to analyze any correlates of OCPs in plasma concentrations. Additionally, data collected—via self-administered questionnaires, telephone interviews, and in-person clinic visits—analyzed various factors, including participants’ demographic, behavior, diet, occupation, and medical history. Linear regression models and 95% confidence intervals (CIs) calculated the percent (%) difference among each OCP category and factor.

Over 60 percent of participants’ blood samples contain detectable levels of four OCPs: dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (p,pʹ DDE), a metabolite of DDThexachlorobenzene (HCB); and chlordane metabolites oxychlordane, and trans-nonachlor. Adjusted regression models find correlations between age and plasma pesticide concentrations as 5-year age differences display 24% higher oxychlordane and 26% higher trans-nonachlor concentrations. Excessive alcohol consumption results in 7-9% higher p,pʹ-DDE, oxychlordane, and trans-nonachlor plasma concentrations. All four OCPs emerge in blood samples of participants who presently smoke. Smokers of ≤10 cigarettes/day exhibit 10–19% higher plasma concentrations, while smokers of ≥10 cigarettes/day having 22-29% higher plasma concentrations. Breastfed babies expressed 15% higher DDE, 14% higher oxychlordane, and 15% higher trans-nonachlor concentrations than non-breastfed babies. Women who drink five glasses of tap or bottled water per day have 8-15% higher concentrations of all four OCPs, principally trans-nonachlor. 

Although the U.S. banned DDT and most other highly hazardous OCPs by the late 1980s, some pesticides exceed the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) guidelines for human subsistence on fish and wildlife, persisting in soil and water sedimentsglacier meltwater runoff, and bioconcentrate in food webs. OCPs fail to attenuate in water—instead, they dissolve into body fat and linger for several years, adversely affecting the hormonal system, metabolic function, and brain development. Exposure to DDT and DDE, as endocrine disruptors, increase the risk associated with diabetesearly onset menopausereduced sperm countendometriosis, and obesity. HCB exposure can exacerbate the risk associated with cardiovascular diseasebirth defectsobesity, and cancer. Past studies indicate both DDE and HCB exposure have multigenerational health effects on obesity and diabetes, with DDE uniquely augmenting multigenerational breast cancer occurrences. Climate change only threatens to exacerbate residual OCP exposure as global warming may affect OCP movement and concentration in the environment while weakening the ability of animals and humans to tolerate those chemicals.

EPA’s failure to address the long-standing effects of a once widely used pesticide is only the tip of the iceberg. This research highlights faults of environmental pesticide monitoring, which fails to account for alternative pesticide exposure routes—especially for biologically persistent OCPs—plaguing community health for over 30 years. BUSPH researchers find higher concentrations of OCP in the plasma of older participants born during, or after, pesticide removal from the market in the late 1970s and early-to-mid 1980s. However, the data also suggests tobacco, alcohol, and drinking water are identified sources of OCP exposure, and disproportionally affect African American women. In addition to previous studies indicating OCPs’ acute, chronic, and multigenerational impacts on human health, this research adds weight to exposure routes playing a significant role in promoting plasma pesticide concentrations high enough to cause adverse health effects. According to Dr. Orta, “If cigarettes, alcohol, and drinking water are in fact exposing black women to pesticides, this matters!” The data results send about health effects elevated by a combination of exposure to hazards, exacerbated by long-term exposures to pesticides and their metabolites in the environment.

We must have a full understanding of the etiology of pesticide-induced diseases before the chemicals are released into the environment. The harm that is ultimately associated with uncertainty should end through policy reform and the adoption of practices that eliminate toxic pesticide use. With far too many diseases in the U.S. associated with pesticide exposure, reducing pesticide use is a critically important aspect of safeguarding public health and addressing cost burdens for local communities, particularly those that are minority and underserved. Beyond Pesticides’ Pesticide-Induced Diseases Database is a great resource for additional scientific literature that documents elevated rates of diabetes as well as other chronic diseases and illnesses among people exposed to pesticides.

All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.

Source: Boston University School of Public HealthMedical Xpress

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