Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
Support Our Annual Fund Drive! We only ask one time of year, but when we do, we mean it. Without your support we can’t continue to bring you the very best material, day-in and day-out. CounterPunch is one of the last common spaces on the Internet. Help make sure it stays that way.
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Toxic Time Bombs

by STEVEN HIGGS

The pernicious impact of toxic chemicals in the body, from suspected roles in autism to human response to everyday stress, can manifest themselves in future generations, according to a new study from researchers at the University of Texas (UT) and Washington State University (WSU).

Published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the animal study found DNA changes wrought by a common fungicide are passed down from parents to offspring, according to a May 22, 2012, UT news release. The researchers studied how the animals respond to stress.

“The ancestral exposure of your great-grandmother alters your brain development to then respond to stress differently,” said WSU professor Michael Skinner.

Along with UT’s David Crews, Skinner and colleagues exposed gestating female rats to the popular fruit and vegetable fungicide vinclozolin and monitored for “epigenetic changes,” which can be passed on to subsequent generations.

Crews and Skinner subjected the exposed rats’ third generation of offspring to a variety of behavioral tests and found them to be more anxious and sensitive to stress. They also had greater activity in stress-related regions of the brain than descendants of unexposed rats.

“We are now in the third human generation since the start of the chemical revolution, since humans have been exposed to these kinds of chemicals,” Crews said in the release. “This is the animal model of that.”

Crews, whose contributions to the paper focused on the neuroscience, behavior and stress aspects, said increases in disorders like autism and bipolar disorder may be connected to the kind of “two-hit” exposure that the experiment is modeling.

“It’s more than just a change in diagnostics,” he said of the documented increases in mental disorders in recent decades. “The question is: Why? Is it because we are living in a more frantic world, or because we are living in a more frantic world and are responding to that in a different way because we, or our ancestors, have been exposed to environmental contaminants. I favor the latter.”

***

The stress study is the second that Crews and UT colleague Andrea Gore have authored on vinclozolin in five years. In 2007 they found exposure to the toxin can affect mate choice in later generations.

Also published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences journal, the study found that female rats avoid males whose great-grandmothers were exposed to the fungicide and preferred males whose ancestors were uncontaminated, according to a March 27, 2007, UT news release.

“Even across generations, your attractiveness as a mate is decreased if your great-grandmother has been exposed to environmental chemicals,” said Gore. “That will have an impact on your ability to reproduce and could take you out of the gene pool.”

Vinclozolin is also linked early onset of cancer and kidney disease in males, they said.

Crews and Gore studied the early onset of disease in rats caused by initial exposure to vinclozolin and found it was passed down generation to generation through the males.

“The female is able to detect which male is likely to get early onset disease and which male is not before they show any manifestation of disease,” Crews said.

Gore added, “The female rats can sense something is wrong, although they can’t see it.”

Males exhibited no preference for female type and generally move on to other populations to mate, the release said. So the effect of vinclozolin exposure in the natural setting would not only span generations but could also reach other populations of animals through male migrations.

“Males disperse, and if they were to mate, it would be at times that they aren’t manifesting signs of disease,” said Crews. “They are literally time bombs.”

 

***

 

Crews and Gore write blogs on the Huffington Post and on March 19, 2012, penned a joint column titled “Our Contaminated World” that focused on the Food & Drug Administration’s (FDA) pending decision to allow the toxic chemical bisphenol-A (BPA) in food packaging like coated metal cans and plastic wraps.

“There is a long scientific history showing a link between exposure to endocrine disruptors and reproductive disorders such as infertility and early puberty.” Professors David Crews and Lauren Gore, University of Texas

“Epidemiological evidence in humans shows associations between BPA and cardiovascular disease, metabolic disorders and reproductive impairments,” they wrote. “Beyond BPA, endocrine disruptors are linked to cancer, obesity, reproductive disorders and mood disorders like anxiety and depression.”

Endocrine disruptors, according to the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), are chemicals that interfere with the endocrine or hormone system and can produce “adverse developmental, reproductive, neurological, and immune effects in both humans and wildlife.”

In response to a complaint from the Natural Resources Defense Council, the FDA decided to continue allowing BPA in food packaging, Huffington Post blogger Lynne Peeples reported on March 20, 2012.

Chemicals like vinclozolin and BPA are undeniably useful, protecting grapes from fungus, leafy greens from pests and children from fire ants and flammable pajamas, Crews and Gore wrote the day before the FDA decision on BPA.

“They’re also in us, and transforming our bodies and minds,” they said. “There is a long scientific history showing a link between exposure to endocrine disruptors and reproductive disorders such as infertility and early puberty. Furthermore, the evidence is growing that the damage is much more widespread.”

Chemicals have been shown to increase the risk of various cancers, to contribute to obesity and to influence the activity of neurotransmitters in the brain, they continued.

“In fact, there are even hints that exposure to the chemicals may have something to do with the dramatic rise in autism and mental disorders over the past few decades,” they said.

With geneticists beginning to appreciate the fundamental role of the environment in shaping who humans are, the question is no longer simply “nature or nurture?”

“We know that nature (the environment) has been changed by contamination, and this leads to changes in how organisms are nurtured,” Crews and Gore wrote.

Steven Higgs can be reached at editor@BloomingtonAlternative.com.

Steven Higgs is an environmental journalist and photographer living in Bloomington, Ind. He owns and operates Natural Bloomington: Ecotours and More. His new book A Guide to Natural Areas of Southern Indiana is scheduled for release by Indiana University Press on April 20, 2016.

More articles by:

2016 Fund Drive
Smart. Fierce. Uncompromised. Support CounterPunch Now!

  • cp-store
  • donate paypal

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

September 26, 2016
Diana Johnstone
The Hillary Clinton Presidency has Already Begun as Lame Ducks Promote Her War
Gary Leupp
Hillary Clinton’s Campaign Against Russia
Dave Lindorff
Parking While Black: When Police Shoot as First Resort
Robert Crawford
The Political Rhetoric of Perpetual War
Howard Lisnoff
The Case of One Homeless Person
Michael Howard
The New York Times Endorses Hillary, Scorns the World
Russell Mokhiber
Wells Fargo and the Library of Congress’ National Book Festival
Chad Nelson
The Crime of Going Vegan: the Latest Attack on Angela Davis
Colin Todhunter
A System of Food Production for Human Need, Not Corporate Greed
Brian Cloughley
The United States Wants to Put Russia in a Corner
Guillermo R. Gil
The Clevenger Effect: Exposing Racism in Pro Sports
David Swanson
Turn the Pentagon into a Hospital
Ralph Nader
Are You Ready for Democracy?
Chris Martenson
Hell to Pay
Doug Johnson Hatlem
Debate Night: Undecided is Everything, Advantage Trump
Frank X Murphy
Power & Struggle: the Detroit Literacy Case
Chris Knight
The Tom and Noam Show: a Review of Tom Wolfe’s “The Kingdom of Speech”
Weekend Edition
September 23, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Andrew Levine
The Meaning of the Trump Surge
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: More Pricks Than Kicks
Mike Whitney
Oh, Say Can You See the Carnage? Why Stand for a Country That Can Gun You Down in Cold Blood?
Chris Welzenbach
The Diminution of Chris Hayes
Vincent Emanuele
The Riots Will Continue
Rob Urie
A Scam Too Far
Pepe Escobar
Les Deplorables
Patrick Cockburn
Airstrikes, Obfuscation and Propaganda in Syria
Timothy Braatz
The Quarterback and the Propaganda
Sheldon Richman
Obama Rewards Israel’s Bad Behavior
Libby Lunstrum - Patrick Bond
Militarizing Game Parks and Marketing Wildlife are Unsustainable Strategies
Andy Thayer
More Cops Will Worsen, Not Help, Chicago’s Violence Problem
Louis Yako
Can Westerners Help Refugees from War-torn Countries?
David Rosen
Rudy Giuliani & Trump’s Possible Cabinet
Joyce Nelson
TISA and the Privatization of Public Services
Pete Dolack
Global Warming Will Accelerate as Oceans Reach Limits of Remediation
Franklin Lamb
34 Years After the Sabra-Shatila Massacre
Cesar Chelala
How One Man Held off Nuclear War
Norman Pollack
Sovereign Immunity, War Crimes, and Compensation to 9/11 Families
Lamont Lilly
Standing Rock Stakes Claim for Sovereignty: Eyewitness Report From North Dakota
Barbara G. Ellis
A Sandernista Priority: Push Bernie’s Planks!
Hiroyuki Hamada
How Do We Dream the Dream of Peace Together?
Russell Mokhiber
From Rags and Robes to Speedos and Thongs: Why Trump is Crushing Clinton in WV
Julian Vigo
Living La Vida Loca
Aidan O'Brien
Where is Europe’s Duterte? 
Abel Cohen
Russia’s Improbable Role in Everything
Ron Jacobs
A Change Has Gotta’ Come
Uri Avnery
Shimon Peres and the Saga of Sisyphus
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail