Pollutant stunts growth

An environmental contaminant that forms from the breakdown of DDT has been found to stunt growth in girls.

The study, by researchers at Michigan State University, the findings of which were presented at the annual meeting of the Congress of Epidemiology in Toronto, found that growth was significantly reduced in young girls in Germany who had been exposed to high levels of dichlorodiphenyl dichloroethene (DDE), although there was no significant effect on the growth of boys. The researchers had investigated the health records of 343 children, and had ascertained their heights throughout their lives.

“We found that these girls, all between the ages of seven and 10, were growing at a lower rate than those who were exposed to low levels of DDE,” said Scott Asakevich, a graduate degree student in epidemiology at Michigan State University. “No one really knows why it has these effects. There are several theories. One theory is that DDE acts as an endocrine disrupter. Another proposes that it could have some effect on the thyroid hormone.”

The researchers do not believe that there are any long-term effects resulting from increased exposure to DDE, and are not able to say why the contaminant affects girls more than boys.

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