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Daily News Blog

13
May

Pilot Study Links Celiac Disease to Long-Lived Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals, like DDT, in the Environment

(Beyond Pesticides, May 13, 2020) A pilot study at New York University (NYU) provides evidence of a direct relationship between increased risk for celiac disease (adverse immune response to eating gluten) and exposure to endocrine-disrupting chemicals, including DDE – a metabolite of the infamous, bird-killing pesticide DDT. Researchers at NYU set out to elucidate the connection between the autoimmune disease and persistent organic pollutants (POPs), also known as “forever chemicals” or “legacy chemicals” due to their persistence in nature and the human body. The new research, published in Environmental Science, highlights higher odds for celiac disease among participants with elevated POPs exposure and differing results among male and female participants. Considering the complexity of these initial results, researcher Leonardo Trasande, Ph.D. says, “It’s not as if these chemicals were designed with the human body in mind; These chemicals were designed with materials in mind.”

[See video overview here]

Celiac disease produces an immune-mediated inflammatory response to the consumption of gluten, a protein found in wheat, rye, and barley. Risk for celiac disease has long been associated with genetic factors, but increased prevalence of the disease inspired further research. Considering previous studies on the deleterious impact of POPs on the immune system, scientists analyzed blood samples from 30 children and young adults (3-21) who had been recently diagnosed with celiac disease. They compared results to 60 other young people of similar demographics. The research focused on three chemicals: PBDE, DDE, and PFAS.

  • Polybrominated di-phenyl ethers (PBDEs) are used as flame retardants in upholstered furniture, mattresses, and electronic products.
  • P,p’-Di- chlorodiphenyldichloroethylene (DDE) is the main metabolite of di- chlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDT), an insecticide related to the decimation of bird populations in the 1960s. DDT was banned in 1972 after Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring raised awareness and sparked the modern environmental movement.
  • Perfluoroalkyl (PFAS) substances are used as surfactants and polymers for consumer products (such as nonstick cookware– famously, Teflon) and building materials.

Researchers found a statistically significant association between DDE and celiac disease after adjusting for confounding factors. Children and young adults with higher blood levels of DDE were two times as likely to be newly diagnosed with celiac. The study found sex-specific PFAS associations among females, and some specific associations among males. The authors caution that because of the small small size the results should not be extrapolated to the broader population. However, the researchers found substantial reason to further study the relationship between POPs and autoimmune diseases, especially among genetically susceptible individuals.

“Our study establishes the first measurable tie-in between environmental exposure to toxic chemicals and celiac disease,” says senior study investigator and pediatric gastroenterologist Jeremiah Levine, MD. “These results also raise the question of whether there are potential links between these chemicals and other autoimmune bowel diseases, which all warrant close monitoring and further study.”

This study adds to the body of evidence Beyond Pesticides has long catalogued regarding the negative impact that toxic chemicals have on human health. The current regulatory approach to pesticides and other persistent industrial chemicals is deeply flawed, as it relies on industry-provided research and does not take a precautionary approach. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) quickly approves chemicals that can then persist in the environment and human bodies for decades or longer. This process disregards the value of long-term human and environmental health for short-term industry profit. What more, though the international community has made some movement to address the threat of POPs, the U.S. has not. Beyond Pesticides recently wrote, “While EPA continues to drag its feet, an international treaty, called the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants, was brought into force. Parties to the Stockholm Convention are bound to eliminate the use and production of hazardous chemicals voted on by member countries. The U.S. is glaringly absent from this treaty, signing it in 2001, yet never ratifying it through the Senate. According to the U.S. State Department, ‘The United States participates as an observer in the meetings of the parties and in technical working groups.'”

See more on endocrine disrupting pesticides at Beyond Pesticides’ Pesticide-Induced Diseases Database. Stay tuned to Beyond Pesticides’ response to governmental inadequacies by participating in our Action of the Week. Sign up for our Weekly News Update for the latest research, news, and policy updates.

Source: NYU Langone Health

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  • Archives

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