New research in rodents has demonstrated the alarming potential of a wide range of commonly encountered chemicals, from pesticides to vehicle fuels, to cause disease not just in the individual exposed to them but in future generations - whether they are also exposed to such toxic chemicals or not - as a result of epigenetic effects.
The study was conducted by scientists at Washington State University and the results published online in the journal PLoS ONE this week. The team, led by molecular biologist Michael Skinner, were able to show in rats that a whole host of environmental pollutants caused negative health effects in threee generations of an exposed animal's offspring.
This is the first study to look at generational health effects of exposures to chemicals from a wide range of different classes. The study was funded by the US Army who wish to understand the effects of chemicals to which troops are likely to be exposed on the battlefield - in an effort one would hope - to avoid a repeat of an epidemic of Gulf War illness (GWI) type health problems following future conflicts. As such Skinner and his team looked at the effects of dioxins, the pesticides DEET and permethrin, the plastic ingredients bisphenol A and phthalates, as well as jet fuel (which is not so dissimilar to the gas/petrol you fill your car with).