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Banned pesticides linked to endometriosis
The EPA now restricts the use of organochlorine pesticides, along with the United Nations’ Stockholm Convention.
November 5th, 2013
11:49 AM ET

Banned pesticides linked to endometriosis

Women with higher levels of pesticides in their blood are also more likely to have endometriosis, according to a new study published Tuesday in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives.

Endometriosis is a chronic condition in which tissue normally lining the uterus’ interior walls also grows outside the uterus, commonly to the ovaries, fallopian tubes, or pelvis –- causing pelvic pain and infertility.

“It affects women during their reproductive years and it could be that as many as 10% of women during reproductive ages have endometriosis,” says Victoria Holt, a researcher at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, a professor of epidemiology at the University of Washington and lead study author.

More than 5 million women have endometriosis, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Office of Women's Health.

“What we know about endometriosis is that it's an estrogen-driven disease. Women who have more estrogen are more likely to have it," Holt says.

Once in the body, some organochlorine pesticides (OCPs) are believed to mimic estrogen, possibly contributing to endometriosis.

For the study, researchers measured OCPs in blood serum samples from 248 surgically-confirmed endometriosis cases and 538 women without diagnosed endometriosis.

Overall, 90% of all women had detectable levels of one such pesticide, called beta-HCH, in their blood.

Compared to women in the lowest quartile, women in the upper 50% for beta-HCH levels were 2.5 times more likely to have ovarian endometriosis.

Another organochlorine pesticide – Mirex – increased the risk of endometriosis overall by 50% when comparing women in the highest category of exposure to those with the lowest exposures, the study suggested.

Eight other organochlorine pesticides measured in the study showed no clear correlation with endometriosis.

"Women in this study were likely exposed simply on the basis of their chronically ingesting contaminated food,” says Dr. Leo Trasande, associate professor of Environmental Medicine, NYU School of Medicine.

Organochlorine pesticides were widely used in the United States from the 1940s through the 1960s, but the Environmental Protection Agency now restricts their use, along with the United Nations’ Stockholm Convention.

However, after all these decades, these pesticides are still present in the environment and can accumulate in the food chain.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, beta-HCH has a half-life of seven years in the body – where it is stored in fat. It can be found in some dairy products, fatty foods and fish.  It's also still produced as a by-product of some lice shampoos and lotions.  The FDA recommends using a safer alternative first; California banned one product in 2002.

“What piqued our interest is that these chemicals are so highly persistent and take years to degrade in the environment.  We detected these chemicals in the blood of women despite their being banned or severely restricted in the United States for the past several decades,” says Kristen Upson, a postdoctoral fellow at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, and study author.

“More broadly, this speaks to the reality that often chemicals are introduced into the market without much in the way of safety testing,” says Trasande.

“And then many decades later, we find out the unfortunate consequences of this hazardous exposure.”


soundoff (20 Responses)
  1. Marion Mitchell

    As a child in the south of France in the early '50s, I was sprayed every night with DDT by my mother. She felt that mosquitos disturbed my sleep, which would be detrimental to my health.
    I developed severe endometriosis in my teens, but was lucky enough to be able to have two normal pregnancies (lost one).
    Had to have a hysterectomy at the age of 31(1073?) to stop the endometriosis. I'd been told that DDT has a half life of 20 years. If so I still had lots when pregnant, but my daughter had no problems.
    This is only one case, and anecdotal, but maybe it could be useful for your statistics.

    November 5, 2013 at 12:31 | Report abuse | Reply
    • maria

      I grew up with DDT ......my mom too sprayed our rooms everyday.....I had endometriosis all my life..3 kids though....a lot of pain and all the good things that come with the disease.

      November 6, 2013 at 17:53 | Report abuse |
  2. Jim Wood

    Reblogged this on Time for Action.

    November 5, 2013 at 12:43 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. skeptical

    I lived in an area of Idaho for awhile where they sprayed pesticides on the fields all summer long. These were dropped by airplane, so there was always considerable drift into populated areas. Not one woman I knew there over the age of 35 still had her uterus. When will there be something done about poisoning our population?

    November 5, 2013 at 16:32 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. Portland tony

    Well being a male, I certainly don't have to worry about exposure to certain pesticides affecting my reproductive organs. Back in the day we kids used to run through the clouds of DDT sprayed weekly in our neighborhood without any side effects that we knew of. But one has to say is what medical science considers SAFE TODAY.....Just may KILL YOU tomorrow. The new miracle drugs may help you today, but might shorten your life by twenty years....same advice for food and health potions and additives etc.....Remember drug and other chemical companies make a lot of money on miracle products..., more than enough to cover lawsuits of future generations that are conceived with "Mental deficiencies as stillborns or autistic like conditions. Some scientists and greed purveyors are the "snake oil" salesmen of our era.

    November 5, 2013 at 16:46 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. lela

    How could you possibly think that what hurts female's reproductive organs could not hurt male's reproductive organs? What the what?

    All of our organs are hurt with today's use of pesticides. Must be some leftover male supremacy thinking in your brain. I suppose you still think the child's gender is the woman's fault (if it is a girl). And I suppose you haven't heard of millions that died after nuclear attacks: poisons do not differentiate between males and females. And it is not just in the pesticides, it is in everything we use today. It would be impossible to escape all of these chemicals because everything on the market is infested with it.
    But since this might just be a post from a female, these words will not cause you to be concerned, now will they?

    November 5, 2013 at 17:18 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. boungiorno

    seriously this affected a lot of individuals health wheres the compensation it is not right!

    November 5, 2013 at 17:32 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. Amanda

    What does the researcher mean that pesticides are released in the market without being tested? Millions of dollars worth of testing is done before anything can be used commercially. Conventionally produced food is perfectly safe. We need to stop needlessly scaring people into purchasing high cost organic foods that come with absolutely no benefits. Even the American Cancer Society believes that eating conventional produce is perfectly safe. http://www.thefarmersdaughterusa.com/2013/01/the-american-cancer-society-organic-food.html

    November 5, 2013 at 18:37 | Report abuse | Reply
    • ar1328

      The american cancer society? LoL

      November 5, 2013 at 22:09 | Report abuse |
    • kippyafd

      HA Ha Think again. The chemicals in food, you know, the ones no one can pronounce, used to make even applesauce, are harmful to you. You really think our food is safe? No, it is not. Our food should not contain chemicals, even to make bread, there are chemicals used. High fructose corn syrup is bad for you, and its in most foods. Look it up. Watch "Hungry for Change" and see how bad our conventionally produced food is for us, how it is making us obese.

      November 6, 2013 at 10:56 | Report abuse |
  8. Kathryn Tocco

    Create Awareness for Endometriosis. 176 million Women suffer from this disease. http://www.millionwomanmarch2014.org

    November 6, 2013 at 02:40 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. Kathryn Tocco

    176 million women globally suffer with this disease. fight for awareness with me. http://www.millionwomanmarch2014.org.

    November 6, 2013 at 02:42 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. Crocky

    As a woman who's been living with Stage IV endometriosis and who grew up in farm country (East Central Illinois), this makes sense as to why I had such a severe case. I've been living with hormone treatments to supress the painful periods, and will be getting everything removed next year. I'm angry that although I made the decision not to have children, so the fertility problems were never an issue, all the other things I had to deal with over the years due to this chronic condition could have been avoided.

    November 6, 2013 at 09:07 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. Lost my dad

    My father died of lung cancer....HE NEVER SMOKED! He spent his final 20 years in Fresno. Top Ag county. Two of his sisters died of cancer and farmed in Minnesota where he was raised. His third sister died of complications of MS...left MN in her early 30s and moved to the SW. I just met a young women, 33 who has endometriosis and has lived her entire life in Fresno. In the San Joaquin Valley, we are raising almonds and pistachios, with major investors from other countries that overdrafted their groundwater, polluted their drinking water with pesticides and nitrates.....guess what....we have done this in CA and they are coming here with their investors to hammer the nail in the coffin. AND WE HAVE TOUGH REGs...People are happily selling their land and moving over to the coast. Our children have moved elsewhere...thankfully. But I am staying here to clean it up. My heart goes out to all those that have posted.

    November 7, 2013 at 03:11 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. liteglow

    Wow. There is no possible way to describe to someone who has not experienced it, the pain of endometriosis. Hell doesn't come close. It's like being stabbed repeatedly in the abdomen for days, every. single. month. of your life. Have passed out from it, been to the hospital, had surgery, medications, etc. It was like being tortured from the age of 14 on. I lived right next to a farm, and saw the spraying regularly, and was exposed to it walking to school.
    The callousness of other "human beings" is incalculable.

    November 7, 2013 at 07:54 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. michele kaluzie

    I would assume that males have these same chemicals in their bloodstream as well since they are (presumably) ingesting the same contaminated food. So, would it be possible these pesticides could have an effect on the hormone levels of boys of reproductive age or even adult men, since they mimic estrogen?

    November 17, 2013 at 12:53 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. Jenny

    My mothers neighbour is working part time and averaging $9000 a month. I'm a single mum and just got my first paycheck for $6546! I still can't believe it. I tried it out cause I got really desperate and now I couldn't be happier. Heres what I do,
    w*w^w . Best96 . c^o*m-

    November 18, 2013 at 15:16 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. Zenonia 5 hack

    Wonderful, what a blog it is! This weblog gives useful information to
    us, keep it up.

    October 11, 2014 at 11:15 | Report abuse | Reply

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