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Researchers see health effects across generations of popular weed killers

  WSU researchers see health impacts from generations of popular weed killers
Washington State University biologist Michael Skinner WSU researchers have seen health effects across generations from the popular weedkiller Glyphosate. Photo credit: Washington State University

Washington State University scientists have identified a variety of diseases and other health problems in second- and third-generation rats in rats exposed to glyphosate, the world's most popular weed killer. In the first study of this kind, the researchers saw offspring of exposed rats suffering from prostate, kidney and ovarian diseases, obesity and birth defects.

Michael Skinner, a WSU professor of life sciences, and his colleagues expose pregnant rats to the herbicide between the 8th and 1

4th day of gestation. The dose – half the amount expected to have no adverse effects – had no apparent negative effects on either parents or first-generation offspring.

But in the journal [ScientificReports] the researchers say "dramatic increases" in several pathologies affecting the second and third generation. The second generation had "significant increases" in testicular, ovarian and mammary gland diseases as well as obesity. In the third generation men, researchers saw an increase in prostate disease by 30 percent – three times the control population. In the third generation of women, kidney disease was 40 percent or four times higher than the controls.

More than a third of second-generation mothers had unsuccessful pregnancies, with most sufferers dying. Two out of five men and women in the third generation were obese.

Skinner and his colleagues refer to this phenomenon as "generational toxicology" and have seen it over the years in fungicides, pesticides, jet fuels and the plastic compound bisphenol A, the insect repellent DEET and the herbicide atrazine. At work, there are epigenetic changes that turn genes on and off due to environmental factors.

Skinner said he chose glyphosate "because it is one of the most commonly used compounds in the world".

The chemical has been the subject of numerous studies of its health effects. The Skinner study is the third in recent months in Washington alone. A University of Washington study published in February found that the chemical increased the risk of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma by up to 41 percent. A study by Washington State University published in December found that residents living near areas treated with herbicide die one-third more likely to die prematurely from Parkinson's disease.

Generation toxicology of the chemical is a new drawback that Skinner and colleagues have said should be included in risk estimates.

"The ability of glyphosate and other environmental toxins to affect our future generations must be considered," they write, "and may be just as important as direct exposure toxicology today for risk assessment."

Researchers see popular herbicide that affects health over generations

Further information:
Deepika Kubsad et al., Evaluation of glyphosate-induced epigenetic inheritance of pathologies and sperm episodes by generations: Generational Toxicology, Scientific Reports (2019). DOI: 10.1038 / s41598-019-42860-0

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Washington State University

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