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Pregnancy-Related Diabetes Linked to Pesticide Exposure

by aseligmann — last modified Jul 08, 2010 12:00 AM

Diabetes during pregnancy has been linked to pesticide exposure, according to a March 2007 study.

Diabetes during pregnancy has been linked to pesticide exposure, according to a March 2007 study.

Researchers gleaned data from a huge health survey that focused mainly on farmers and their wives who were were questioned about their farming activities and health history. This study looked at data about the most recent pregnancies of more than 11,000 women.

Farm women who worked with agricultural pesticides during the first trimester of pregnancy had a twofold risk of gestational diabetes mellitus. There was no increased risk for farm women whose pesticide exposure was limited to home and garden use or indirect exposure from weeding or harvesting spray crops.

More than half (57%) of the women reported mixing or applying pesticides at some time during their lives, but this did not turn out to be a risk factor for gestational diabetes.

When researchers focused on some of the specific pesticides that the women reported using, they found an increased risk for diabetes during pregnancy if they had ever used any one of seven chemicals. These included four herbicides — atrazine, butylate, 2,4,5-T or 2,4,5-TP (Silvex), and three insecticides — diazinon, phorate or carbofuran.

This study marks the first time that gestational diabetes mellitus has been examined. Other studies have shown that "exposure to pesticides may result in abnormal glucose [sugar] metabolism, increasing the risk of diabetes."

Researchers discussed a number of studies that may relate to the seven pesticides. A few studies have linked the chemical dioxin (TCDD) to diabetes or related conditions.

Among these, they referenced a health survey of Vietnam veterans that found an increased risk of type 2 diabetes in those who were exposed to dioxin. Dioxin was a contaminant of 2,4,5-T, one component of Agent Orange herbicide of the Vietnam War. This same herbicide, 2,4,5-T, and another dioxin-contaminated herbicide, 2,4,5-TP, showed up as a risk factor for gestational diabetes for farm women. Both were banned in the United States in 1985.

The authors noted that diabetes-related symptoms have been described in several case reports of people who were poisoned by organophosphate and carbamate insecticides. In this study, two organophosphates, diazinon and phorate, and one carbamate, carbofuran, were linked to increased risk of diabetes during pregnancy.

Gestational diabetes mellitus can cause significant health problems during pregnancy and at birth. After an initial case of gestational diabetes mellitus, 20 to 50 percent of affected women will develop type 2 diabetes within 5 to 10 years.

The authors explain that women are more prone to diabetes during pregnancy so they may be particularly susceptible to environmental triggers that affect the metabolism of glucose. They go on to say that because so many women with gestational diabetes later develop type 2 diabetes, "understanding any potential effect of environmental exposures on glucose tolerance during pregnancy may have substantial public health importance."

 


NEWS STORY:

Synopsis [of] Pesticide exposure and self-reported gestational diabetes mellitus in the Agricultural Health Study.
Sathyanarayana, S and Hessler, W.
Environmental Health News. July 6, 2007
http://www.environmentalhealthnews.org/newscience/2007/2007-0706saldanaetal.html

STUDY SOURCE:

Pesticide exposure and self-reported gestational diabetes mellitus in the Agricultural Health Study.
Saldana, T, et al. 2007.
Diabetes Care 30(3):529-534.
http://care.diabetesjournals.org/cgi/content/full/30/3/529