Researchers at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center to present first documentation of man-made chemical contaminants in the amniotic fluid of unborn babies

LOS ANGELES -- Scientists from Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles and the University of Calgary in Alberta, Canada will present on Monday, June 14, findings of a study that for the first time has detected and measured contaminants from certain pesticides and industrial chemicals in the amniotic fluid of unborn babies.

This study was not designed to determine whether exposure to these contaminants produces ill effects on fetuses or newborns. Instead, it is seen as a first step in a long-term process of identifying contaminants and later assessing their potential impact.

Of particular interest to the researchers, who will present their findings at the Endocrine Society's meetings in San Diego, are compounds that are known to have the capacity to disrupt natural hormone activity in humans - and which could, theoretically at least, pose a risk to normal development of the fetus.

About 30 percent of the sample had measurable levels of DDE, a waste product of the pesticide DDT that is no longer available in North America but is still in use in some developing countries. The study analyzed the amniotic fluid of 53 women from the Los Angeles area who were between 16 and 20 weeks of gestation.

DDE is known to 'antagonize' the male hormone testosterone. Testosterone is present in the blood of both males and females, although it exists in higher concentrations in males. Circulating in the blood, it 'attaches' to testosterone 'receptors' of cells. While these receptors 'prefer' the natural male hormone, they also can accept DDE as a substitute. Therefore, as concentrations of DDE increase, the ability of testosterone to properly bind and signal target cells to initiate the functions that they are programmed to carry out decreases.

Among the 30 percent of the study population for which DDE levels were measurable, concentrations ranged from 0.1 to 0.63 nanograms per milliliter. This top value of 0.63 nanograms per milliliter is nearly equal to the

Contact: Sandra Van
Cedars-Sinai Medical Center

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