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Study: Exposure to Two Pesticides Linked to Endometriosis

This report originally appeared Nov. 5 in Environmental Health News.

Exposure to two banned pesticides may be associated with an increased risk of endometriosis, according to researchers from Washington state.

Endometriosis, a disease in which uterine tissue grows in the ovaries or other parts of the body, often causes pelvic pain and infertility.

The researchers focused on organochlorine pesticides, which were widely used for decades but have mostly been banned due to health concerns. They break down slowly in the environment and persist for many years in human tissue.

Links to endometriosis were found for the insecticides lindane and mirex. Mirex was banned in the United States in 1978. Most uses of lindane have also been banned, although it is still used in some doctor-prescribed lice shampoos.

Previous studies in rodents suggest that organochlorine pesticides and other chlorinated compounds may act as hormone disruptors, altering uterine and ovarian function and raising the risks of reproductive diseases.

The new study is one of the first to examine the association between organochlorine pesticides and endometriosis in women in the general population. Six to 10 percent of reproductive-age women in the U.S. suffer from endometriosis.

“Our study suggests that exposure from extensive past use of environmentally persistent OCPs in the United States, or present use in other countries may impact the health of the current generation of reproductive-age women with regard to a hormonally-mediated disease,” the study authors wrote.

Researchers tested blood from 248 women with clinically diagnosed endometriosis and 538 healthy women for traces of 11 organochlorine pesticides and byproducts. The women ranged in age from 17 to 49. The majority were white.

The women were divided into four groups, or quartiles, based on the level of pesticide in each woman’s blood.

Women in the second-highest exposure group for beta-hexacyclochlorohexane (beta-HCH), a byproduct of lindane, had a 70-percent greater risk of endometriosis than women with the lowest levels. Women with the highest levels of mirex had a 50-percent greater risk of endometriosis than women with the lowest levels.

When the researchers looked only at women with ovarian endometriosis (uterine tissue growing in the ovaries), the association was much stronger – a 2.5-times greater risk – for those with the highest blood levels of the lindane byproduct than those with the lowest levels.

There were no statistically significant associations for other pesticides, including chlordane, DDT and hexachlorobenzene.

The researchers collected the blood samples an average of 1.2 years after diagnosis of endometriosis, so it’s possible that the concentrations may not reflect the levels that existed in the women’s blood while the disease was developing.

However, their results are consistent with those of a smaller study published last year, which linked HCH exposure and endometriosis.

© Food Safety News
  • Pesticide Food Safety

    scary stuff… too bad all we care about in the U.S. is microbial food safety since someone can die and the company can be sued… But no one cares about chronic food safety issues in the U.S.. because you cant sue a company for your child having a birth defect or autism…

    The MRL’s are set at limits so small that even if you ate apples everyday 3 times a day for your whole life the pesticide residues probably wont have an effect on you…

    However the problem lies in accountability/enforcement… There is next to no testing done in the U.S. to ensure that their produce is within established MRL’s.. Even if farmers are required to provide spray records, and audits once a year to make sure everything is compliant, there is no room for error and error’s happen pretty often…

    what if your neighbor a spinach grower sprays a very strong herbicide to clear the field at the start of the season and your about to harvest your strawberries… this strong herbicide lets say propyzamide (pronamide) has a post harvest interval of 55 days.. you harvest your strawberries the next day which unbeknownst to you have 5 ppm of propyzamide on them..

    First of all the chemical is not approved for use on strawberries and at the concentration is detrimental to health. second your poisoning your customers, you have no idea and they have no idea. Third the FDA/USDA also has no idea because they dont do any random testing of domestically grown and sold produce…

    Some more progressive/responsible farmers like to occasionally test to make sure there are no surprises.. Others test when exporting because they know the likely hood of finding an unexpected pesticide on their produce is a very high, and they know they will be tested in destination and risk losing hundreds of thousands of dollars.

    Most dont test AT ALL because they say they never had a problem with this before and are not required to do it, so they are not going to waste their money..

    Organic produce… dont get me started… “we dont test because we dont use pesticides” is about the stupidest thing I ever heard..

    • RichWa

      USDA Organic does not test because they DO use pesticide laden soil amendments along with other amendments contaminated with prohibited materials. Aside from the fact that that the process of growing organic food, as defined by the NOSB, specifies using minimal off-farm inputs, big organic ag in California (eg Earthbound Farms, et al) uses tons of imported compost proven to be contaminated with pesticide residue. One reason no testing is done is simply that the big “organic” farming operations would be out of operation without the tons of amendments as soil health is irrelevant to the people that own big organic ag (eg Natural Selections Foods which is the parent company of Earthbound Farms was owned by HM Capital/JP Morgan, an equity firm and is still being run by some of the principals of the firm under a new name.)