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China Study Links Birth Defects to Coal Smoke, Pesticides

A report from Reuters on MSNBC is reporting that a recent study out of China found pregnant women exposed to coal smoke and pesticides were up to four times as likely to have babies with serious birth defects than women not exposed.

Researchers studied 80 newborn babies and aborted fetuses with brain and spinal cord defects and found their mother’s placentas had significantly higher levels of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) that come from inhaling smoke from burning coal, and synthetic pesticides such as DDT, hexachlorocyclohexane (HCH) and endosulfan when compared to the placentas of babies not born with defects.

In China, coal plants are ubiquitous and homes are often heated by coal. Interesting, however, is that DDT, HCH, and endosulfan have been banned in China for two decades, as they have in the U.S. (Lindane, a variant of HCH, is still available in the U.S. as a “second resort” treatment for scabies and lice.) These toxins are persistent, however, meaning they linger in the environment for many years after application. In 2007, a study published in Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry found that seafood products from southern China contained high amounts of DDT and HCH. Similar findings have been reported recently in fish taken from Florida and Lake Michigan waters.

Read more about the China study here:

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