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Pesticide exposure in the first trimester could increase risk of gestational diabetes by 4 times

Posted:  Thursday, September 24, 2015

Numerous studies have reported adverse health effects of pesticide exposure. Although many are banned, some chemical pesticides are known to linger in the environment for ages and bioaccumulate in animals and humans. A recent study finds that a 10 times higher exposure to pesticides in the first trimester could increase the risk of gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM) in pregnant women.

The pesticides namely polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), organochlorine pesticides, Dichlorodiphenyldichloroethene (DDE-a breakdown product of DDT) and hexachlorobenzene (HCB) are collectively called persistent organic pollutants (POPs). The study aimed to understand whether exposure to current low levels of pesticides could cause GDM in pregnant women. The results of the study were presented at annual meeting of the European Association for the Study of Diabetes in Stockholm.

The study recruited 639 women from the Rhea pregnancy cohort in Greece and determined the blood concentrations of several PCBs, DDE, and HCB in first trimester by mass spectrometry. They were then screened for GDM between 24 and 28 weeks of gestation.

In the study population, a total of 7% of women had GDM. The researchers unearthed this association after adjusting for pre-pregnancy body mass index (BMI) and other confounding factors. The researchers asked for further research to understand the underlying biological mechanism.

In conclusion, the researchers said, “As countries around the world, including Greece, deal with an increasing prevalence of gestational diabetes, the findings are important from a public health perspective as knowledge of environmental risk factors could help to reverse this trend. Our future research in this cohort will examine whether prenatal exposure to POPs is associated with alterations in glucose metabolism and diabetes development of the offspring in early childhood."

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