ddt spraying and obesity photo

While the U.S. no longer blankets agricultural crops with DDT, use of the poison is actually on the rise in some parts of the world. The World Health Organization (WHO) recently lifted a ban on DDT to provide relief in countries with high malaria rates. The mosquitoes may be gone, but what’s left behind? Scientist Michael Skinner decided to take a closer look at the genetic impact of DDT, specifically whether it can be linked to obesity and related diseases in the next generation. What he found isn’t promising.

Skinner and his team injected pregnant rats with DDT, and then studied their children and grandchildren to see the impact of exposure. 

“Is there a correlation between the fact that we were all exposed to DDT in the 1950s for 10 years, and the fact that we are now seeing high levels of obesity?” Skinner asked in an interview on Grist. His work suggests the answer is yes.

There’s a trend toward obesity in nearly every species on the planet, according to Skinner, so it has to be more than just fast food and lack of exercise. Chemicals could be linked to weight gain.

“I do believe that the observed obesity is real,” emailed Andrea Gore, a professor of pharmacology and toxicology at the University of Texas Austin, reported on Grist. Other experiments have already shown that endocrine-disrupting chemicals can cause obesity generations after exposure, Gore said. BPA and high fructose corn syrup have both been tied to weight gain as well.

There’s a period during gestation where exposure to chemicals can also cause genetic changes. According to the study, “Observations indicate ancestral exposure to DDT can promote obesity and associated disease transgenerationally.”

Concerns over indoor spraying of DDT to fight malaria are growing because it exposes humans to far higher concentrations than agricultural spraying. As a result, the health hazards associated with spraying DDT indoors are much more serious than when it’s sprayed on crops. A study published in Environmental Health Perspectives linked DDT to breast cancer, diabetes, infertility, and impaired brain function in children. 

Related on Organic Authority:
Long Gone DDT Pesticide Linked to Increasing Rates of Cancer 
Banned DDT Still a Health Risk, Linked to Vitamin D Deficiencies 
DDT Exposure May Influence Obesity in Young Women 

Image: GEF