Dioxin, one of the main ingredients in Agent Orange (which was widely used in Vietnam) has now been shown to cause significant disease and reproductive problems multigenerationally. In the new research, the third generation of rats that had descended from an exposed group of rats had even more dramatic disease than the second generation.
Similar research on the multigenerational health effects of common pesticides was just published earlier this year.
Washington State University biologist Michael Skinner and members of his lab “say dioxin administered to pregnant rats resulted in a variety of reproductive problems and disease in subsequent generations. The first generation of rats had prostate disease, polycystic ovarian disease and fewer ovarian follicles, the structures that contain eggs. To the surprise of Skinner and his colleagues, the third generation had even more dramatic incidences of ovarian disease and, in males, kidney disease.”
“Therefore, it is not just the individuals exposed, but potentially the great-grandchildren that may experience increased adult-onset disease susceptibility,” says Skinner.
Skinner is currently a professor of reproductive biology and environmental epigenetics — that’s the process by which environmental factors can turn genetic factors on and off in the offspring of an exposed animal, “even though its DNA sequences remain unchanged.”
Just during this year alone, Skinner and his colleagues in the field have “published studies finding epigenetic diseases promoted by jet fuel and other hydrocarbon mixtures, plastics, pesticides and fungicides, as well as dioxin.”
“The field of epigenetics opens new ground in the study of how diseases and reproductive problems develop. While toxicologists generally focus on animals exposed to a compound, work in Skinner’s lab further demonstrates that diseases can also stem from older, ancestral exposures that are then mediated through epigenetic changes in sperm.”
This new research was funded by the U.S. DoD, the National Institutes of Health, and the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences.
The study was designed by Skinner; the and the research was done by Assistant Research Professor Mohan Manikkam, Research Technician Rebecca Tracey, and Post-doctoral Researcher Carlos Guerrero.
The new findings were just published in the journal PLoS ONE.