A few years ago a study conducted by the NY State Department of health on former Love Canal residents identified two very important facts. First the rate of birth defects in Love Canal children (those who were children living in the area during the crisis) is as high as it was for adults during exposures while living at Love Canal (56% of children were born with birth defects). The second finding was that there were statistically more girls than boys born to Love Canal children. Generally it is believed that that change in normal ratio of male/female children is an indicator of exposures to hormone disrupting chemicals.
You may have already heard about these health outcomes in our newsletter or other communications. It was the recent news about a study of dioxin and rats that reminded me of the Love Canal studies. At Love Canal there were 20,000 tons of chemicals buried in the center of the community and one of the chemicals identified in backyards was dioxin.
When I read the recent animal studies around dioxin and how exposures impacts children across generations, I was worried again. Not only about my family, friends and former neighbors but for all the communities like Time Beach, Mo, Pensacola, FL, the ones people may have heard about but also communities not in the news in Texas, Georgia, Louisiana, Washington and every other community with a paper mill, wood treatment facility and pesticide sprayers.
Here is the scary news. “Pregnant rats exposed to an industrial pollutant passed on a variety of diseases to their unexposed great-grandkids.” Washington State University scientists found that third-generation offspring of pregnant rats exposed to dioxin had high rates of kidney and ovarian diseases as well as early onset of puberty. They also found changes in the great-grandsons’ sperm. The great-grandkids – the first generation not directly exposed to dioxin – inherited their health conditions through cellular changes controlling how their genes were turned on and off, the researchers reported. The dioxin doses used in the study were low for lab rats, but are higher than most people’s exposures from the environment. The study raises questions that won’t be easy to answer about people’s exposure to dioxins from food and industrial sources.
Dioxin builds up in the body and has up to a decade-long half-life in humans, so scientists say a woman who becomes pregnant even 20 years after exposure is at risk of transmitting the consequences of her exposure to later generations. Most human studies of dioxins have focused on the direct exposure in adults and fetuses. A study of a 1976 industrial accident in Anshu Seveso, Italy, documented health defects in the grandchildren of women that conceived as long as 25 years after exposure to dioxin. No human studies have investigated how a person’s dioxin exposure will affect their great grandkids.
So what does this mean for the millions of people directly exposed dioxin and almost everyone eating dioxin contaminated foods daily? The average American is at 77% of the level below which exposures are considered to be safe. That level is set for adults not babies and small children. Children have different eating habits than adults. They tend to eat more dairy products that are high in dioxin. Dioxin is prevalent in foods that are high in saturated fat, primarily meat and dairy.
This information really reaffirms that everyone needs to eat foods with little animal fats and fat free dairy to protect our great, grandchildren. It also should send an urgent message to EPA to get industries to clean up and stop producing dioxin pollution now. We can’t wait nor can our grant grand babies. Read more: