Exposure to the synthetic pesticide DDT may increase both the risk and severity of Alzheimer’s disease in some individuals – especially those over the age of 60.
DDT was introduced to the United States as a pesticide during World War II and was utilized for insect control in crops and livestock, as well as to combat insect-borne diseases such as malaria.
For more than 40 years, scientists and health experts have known that DDT is harmful to the environment and can also lead to a number of chronic health effects in humans. But while the chemical was banned in the United States in 1972, it is still used as a pesticide in other countries and is found in 75 to 80 percent of blood samples collected from people by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“It hangs out in the environment in exceptionally long periods of time, and it can accumulate in the food chain, where the top predators, such as fish, birds and humans, can actually get higher doses [of DDT] than the original amount that was put in [the environment],” lead author Jason Richardson, associate professor in the department of environmental and occupational medicine at Robert Wood Medical School at Rutgers University, told FoxNews.com. “…And not only do we have a legacy contamination, it’s still used around the world both legally and illegally.”
Richardson became interested in analysing the association between DDT and Alzheimer’s in 2009 when he and other colleagues were looking at pesticide exposure in relation to Parkinson’s disease. When they found a strong association between the two, the researchers decided to study Alzheimer’s patients as well, to see if DDT had a connection to other types of neurodegenerative diseases.
After finding elevated levels of DDT in 20 blood samples from Alzheimer’s patients, the researchers decided to look into the association further. For this latest study, Richardson and his team collected blood samples from 86 Alzheimer’s patients at the Emory University Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center and the University of Texas Southwestern Medical School’s Alzheimer’s Disease Center. On average, the patients were around 74 years old.
By : Loren Grush