Researchers see popular herbicide affecting health across generations

September 20, 2017
Michael Skinner of Washington State University has found the popular herbicide atrazine affecting several generations of rats. Credit: Washington State University

First, the good news. Washington State University researchers have found that a rat exposed to a popular herbicide while in the womb developed no diseases and showed no apparent health effects aside from lower weight.

Now, the weird news. The grand- of that rat did have more , as did a great-grand offspring third generation.

"The third generation had multiple diseases and much more frequently than the third generation of unexposed ," said Michael Skinner, a Washington State University professor of biological sciences. At work, says Skinner, are epigenetic inheritance changes that turn genes on and off, often because of environmental influences.

Writing this week in the journal PLOS ONE, Skinner reports exposing pregnant rats to atrazine, a commonly used herbicide on corn crops across the Midwest. Manufactured by Syngenta, the hormone-disrupting compound has been banned in Europe, where it was found contaminating water, while the Environmental Protection Agency permits its use in the U.S. It has been found in water systems serving 30 million Americans in 28 states, according to an Environmental Working Group survey of municipal water records.

After Skinner and his colleagues exposed pregnant female rats to the herbicide, their first generation of offspring showed no ill effects but weighed less than rats in a control group. Rats bred from them had increased testis disease and altered sperm production, mammary tumors in both males and females, early-onset puberty in the males and lower-weight females. Their offspring—the great-grand offspring of the exposed rats—also had more testis disease, plus early onset puberty in females, hyperactivity and leaner male and female physiques.

When Skinner and his colleagues looked at sperm of the offspring, they found epimutations, or alterations in the methyl groups that stick to DNA and affect its activation.

"Observations indicate that although atrazine does not promote disease in the directly exposed F1 [first] , it does have the capacity to promote the epigenetic transgenerational inheritance of disease in subsequent generations," the researchers write.

The investigators also identified specific sets of epimutations that could lead to improved diagnosis of ancestral exposures and one's susceptibility to disease.

Earlier work by Skinner has found epigenetic effects from a host of environmental toxicants, connecting plastics, pesticides, fungicide, dioxin, hydrocarbons, the fungicide vinclozolin and the popular insect repellant DEET to diseases and abnormalities as many as three generations later.

Explore further: Researchers investigate effect of environmental epigenetics on disease and evolution

Related Stories

Researchers investigate effect of environmental epigenetics on disease and evolution

August 3, 2015
Washington State University researchers say environmental factors are having an underappreciated effect on the course of disease and evolution by prompting genetic mutations through epigenetics, a process by which genes are ...

Plastic products and jet fuel exposures raising incidences of 'epigenetic transgenerational inheritance'

January 24, 2013
Washington State University researchers have lengthened their list of environmental toxicants that can negatively affect as many as three generations of an exposed animal's offspring.

Effects of environmental toxicants reach down through generations

March 2, 2012
A Washington State University researcher has demonstrated that a variety of environmental toxicants can have negative effects on not just an exposed animal but the next three generations of its offspring.

DDT and obesity linked in new study

October 22, 2013
Washington State University researchers say ancestral exposures to environmental compounds like the insecticide DDT may be a factor in high rates of obesity. The finding comes as DDT is getting a second look as a tool against ...

Dioxin causes disease and reproductive problems across generations

September 26, 2012
Since the 1960s, when the defoliant Agent Orange was widely used in Vietnam, military, industry and environmental groups have debated the toxicity of its main ingredient, the chemical dioxin, and how it should be regulated.

Pesticide linked to 3 generations of disease: Methoxychlor causes epigenetic changes

July 24, 2014
Washington State University researchers say ancestral exposures to the pesticide methoxychlor may lead to adult onset kidney disease, ovarian disease and obesity in future generations.

Recommended for you

Three million Americans carry loaded handguns daily, study finds

October 19, 2017
An estimated 3 million adult American handgun owners carry a firearm loaded and on their person on a daily basis, and 9 million do so on a monthly basis, new research indicates. The vast majority cited protection as their ...

More teens than ever aren't getting enough sleep

October 19, 2017
If you're a young person who can't seem to get enough sleep, you're not alone: A new study led by San Diego State University Professor of Psychology Jean Twenge finds that adolescents today are sleeping fewer hours per night ...

Eating better throughout adult years improves physical fitness in old age, suggests study

October 18, 2017
People who have a healthier diet throughout their adult lives are more likely to be stronger and fitter in older age than those who don't, according to a new study led by the University of Southampton.

Across Asia, liver cancer is linked to herbal remedies: study

October 18, 2017
Researchers have uncovered widespread evidence of a link between traditional Chinese herbal remedies and liver cancer across Asia, a study said Wednesday.

Global calcium consumption appears low, especially in Asia

October 18, 2017
Daily calcium intake among adults appears to vary quite widely around the world in distinct regional patterns, according to a new systematic review of research data ahead of World Osteoporosis Day on Friday, Oct. 20.

New study: Nearly half of US medical care comes from emergency rooms

October 17, 2017
Nearly half of all US medical care is delivered by emergency departments, according to a new study by researchers at the University of Maryland School of Medicine (UMSOM). And in recent years, the percentage of care delivered ...

0 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.