DDT legacy

Residue causes foetal loss

Published: Tuesday 15 February 2005

dichloro chloro phenyl ethylene (dde), a toxic residue of ddt, has been found responsible for foetal loss, according to a study conducted by Mathew Longnecker and his co-workers at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences in the us (Environmental Research, Vol 97, No 2 pp 127-133).

From 1997-1999, blood samples were taken from 1,717 women who had enrolled in a 1959-1965 Collaborative Prenatal Project. All the women had had one or more abortions. Analysis of the samples showed the probability of foetal loss among the women was directly proportional to levels of dde in their blood. dde prevents the binding of birth inducing hormone progesterone to its receptor protein and hence inactivates the hormone.

It is seen that pregnancy and breastfeeding reduce a woman's body burden of pesticides and transfer them to the foetus and the infants.

Though previous studies have established that ddt is a reproductive toxin, all of them were conducted on relatively smaller samples. The us study examined a large number of subjects who were enrolled in the early 1960s when ddt use was at its peak.

ddt has been banned in most parts of the world but about 25 countries continue to use it mainly for public health purposes.

In tropical countries such as Pakistan and Sri Lanka, ddt is seen as a cheap and effective solution for vector control. In India, the chemical is used in malaria control programmes despite being banned in agriculture. Is it possible that the increase in abortions in these countries is somewhat related to the use of this pesticide? But only limited studies have been done on this.

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