Fetal exposure to PVC plastic chemical linked to obesity in offspring

Exposing pregnant mice to low doses of the chemical tributyltin – which is used in marine hull paint and PVC plastic – can lead to obesity for multiple generations without subsequent exposure, a UC Irvine study has found.

After exposing to TBT in concentrations similar to those found in the environment, researchers saw increased body fat, fat and fat-specific gene expression in their "children," "grandchildren" and "great-grandchildren" – none of which had been exposed to the chemical.

These findings suggest that early-life exposure to endocrine-disrupting such as TBT can have permanent effects of fat accumulation without further exposure, said study leader Bruce Blumberg, UC Irvine professor of and developmental & cell biology. These effects appear to be inherited without DNA mutations occurring.

The study appears online Jan. 15 in Environmental Health Perspectives, a publication of the National Institute for Environmental Health Sciences.

Human exposure to TBT can occur through PVC plastic particles in dust and via leaching of the chemical and other related organotin compounds from PVC pipes and containers.

Significant levels of TBT have been reported in house dust – which is particularly relevant for young children who may spend significant time on floors and carpets. Some people are exposed by ingesting seafood contaminated with TBT, which has been used in marine hull paint and is pervasive in the environment.

Blumberg categorizes TBT as an obesogen, a class of chemicals that promote by increasing the number of fat cells or the storage of fat in existing cells. He and his colleagues first identified the role of obesogens in a 2006 publication and showed in 2010 that TBT acts in part by modifying the fate of mesenchymal stem cells during development, predisposing them to become fat cells.

Related Stories

Improving DNA amplification from problematic plants

date Jan 03, 2013

The polymerase chain reaction (PCR) is a common technique used to amplify, or copy, pieces of DNA. Amplified DNA is then used in genetic analyses for everything from medicine to forensics. In plant research, PCR is a vital ...

A new candidate pathway for treating visceral obesity

date May 06, 2012

Brown seems to be the color of choice when it comes to the types of fat cells in our bodies. Brown fat expends energy, while its counterpart, white fat stores it. The danger in white fat cells, along with the increased risk ...

Fat-regenerating 'stem cells' found in mice

date Oct 10, 2008

Researchers have identified stem cells with the capacity to build fat, according to a report in the October 17th issue of the journal Cell, a Cell Press publication. Although they have yet to show that the cells can renew ...

Recommended for you

Link between alcohol outlets and assaults

date 1 hour ago

A study exploring the established link between off-premise alcohol outlets and the rate of assaults and injuries in Australia has found that large bottleshops and liquor chains contribute most substantially ...

Mobilising against hypertension in South Africa

date 1 hour ago

Lifestyle-related disease is on the rise in South Africa, including high blood pressure. An ingenious partnership involving Oxford University is putting the nation's extensive mobile phone network to work ...

Making an impact on concussions

date 1 hour ago

The crash test dummy head is weighted and hauled with a pulley up the track. After a final check of the instruments and a quick countdown, the helmeted head plummets into an inevitable collision, moving at ...

User comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.