After World War II, Dichloro-Diphenyl-Trichloroethane, or DDT, a pesticide used to control lice and mosquito populations, was sold as an agricultural insecticide, but DDT was eventually banned by the Endangered Species Act, due to the risks it poses to wildlife, specifically birds, and human health, such as cancer.
Despite not being used for decades, DDT byproducts still exist in the environment, especially in marine animals like fish, and now a new study in the journal Occupational and Environmental Medicine links DDE, a breakdown of DDT, with obesity in young women.
The research, involving the offspring of 259 pregnant women living along and eating fish from Lake Michigan, discovered the group with intermediate levels of DDE gained an average of 13 pounds of excess weight and the group with the highest exposure of DDE gained more than 20 extra pounds.
Study participants were taken from a larger research sample first recruited in the 1970s with scientists approaching the daughters of these women in 2000. Experts also examined the correlation between PCBs, a chemical used in flame retardants and hydraulic fluids, and obesity, but no link was found.