Pesticides And PCBs Found
In Amniotic Fluid
AmeriScan: June 15, 1999
The first documentation of pesticides and other man-made chemicals in the amniotic fluid of unborn babies in amounts that could disrupt the natural fetal hormones was revealed Monday by a team of U.S. and Canadian researchers. Scientists from Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, California, and the University of Calgary in Alberta, Canada analyzed amniotic fluid from 53 pregnant women from the Los Angeles area. About 30 percent showed measurable levels of DDE, a waste product of the pesticide DDT. DDE binds to receptors for the male hormone testosterone, and can interfere with the normal effects of testosterone on a growing fetus. "The key factor in assessing the significance of compounds that act like hormones is how their concentrations relate to the naturally occurring hormones," said Dr. Claude Hughes, director of the Center for Women's Health at Cedars-Sinai. Samples with the highest DDE concentrations were nearly equal to the testosterone level that should be found in female fetuses, about half the testosterone level that should be found in male fetuses. Warren Foster, Ph.D., director of research and associate director of the Center for Women's Health, said, "With these levels of DDE present, the natural hormones will presumably be suppressed or blocked. It could have an effect upon the baby's development, such as masculinization; however, it's speculation at this point." Smaller detectable amounts of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and other man-made chemicals were measured in the samples. The researchers have applied for a grant to analyze amniotic fluid from 1,000 women from the Los Angeles area and from Hamilton, Ontario. "We want two different sites because there is evidence within the literature, both with my own previous studies as well as others, that there are regional differences in exposures," said Dr. Foster. "People on the West Coast typically have higher DDE exposures than people on the East Coast, whereas people on the East Coast may actually have higher PCB exposures."