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Organic pollutants may increase fetus' risk for neural tube defects (PR)

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Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 
Organic pollutants may increase fetus' risk for neural tube defects

Elevated placental levels of chemicals found in some pesticides, flame retardants, and byproducts of incineration are associated with an increased fetal risk of neural tube defects (NTDs), researchers find. The birth defects, which result when the neural tube fails to close during early gestation, have been linked to environmental pollutants but researchers have reported little evidence for the connection in humans. Tong Zhu and colleagues compared the levels of several groups of persistent organic pollutants, including polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), certain pesticides, and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), in the placentas of 80 Chinese fetuses and newborns with neural tube defects and 50 healthy newborn infants from 2005-2007. The authors identified greater levels of PAHs, pesticides and their metabolites in NTD-associated placentas than in non-NTD placentas. Furthermore, above-average placental levels of PAHs increased the risk of fetal NTDs by 4.5 times, and increased concentrations of pollutants were associated with elevated risks of NTDs. The researchers observed similar results for several insecticides, including dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDT). Although pesticides such as DDT were banned in China in 1983, the presence of these pesticides in the placentas of Chinese women may reflect the persistence of residues in the environment, according to the authors.

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Article #11-05209: "Association of selected persistent organic pollutants in the placenta with the risk of neural tube defects," by Aiguo Ren et al.

MEDIA CONTACT: Tong Zhu, College of Environmental Sciences and Engineering and Centre for Environment and Health, Peking University, Beijing, CHINA; tel: +86 10 62754789; +86-13-501176890 (evening); e-mail: tzhu@pku.edu.cn; and Aiguo Ren, Institute of Reproductive and Child Health, Peking University Health Science Center, Beijing, CHINA; tel: +86-10-82801140 (office); +86-10-62353660 (evening); e-mail: renag@bjmu.edu.cn
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