Family toxin exposure may cause diseases

Sept. 15, 2006 at 3:05 PM
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SEATTLE, Sept. 15 (UPI) -- Toxin exposure during embryonic development is being linked to developing adult-onset diseases such as cancer, diabetes or kidney disease, says a U.S. study.

A disease that people are suffering today could be a result of a great-grandmother being exposed to an environmental toxin during pregnancy -- and it may be passed along to all decedents, according to Washington State University researchers.

In the study, pregnant rats were exposed to the fungicide vinclozolin and the male offspring had low sperm counts and a high incidence of adult-onset diseases.

The discovery suggests that toxins may have played a role in the rapid increase in localized geographic areas of diseases that were previously thought to be caused primarily by genetic mutations, says Michael K. Skinner, director of the Center for Reproductive Biology.

"It's a new way to think about disease," said Skinner. "If this pans out, it gives us a host of new diagnostic and therapeutic tools."

The findings, published in the journal Endocrinology, underscore the potential long-term hazards of environmental contaminants such as fungicides or pesticides.

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