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20/11/2012 - Press release

Dioxins in pregnancy may affect the reproductive system of male infants (CREAL press release)

The study has been directed by CREAL with the colaboration of IMIM and Greece University

Exposure to dioxins during pregnancy is associated with endocrine-disrupting effects in male infants. Genitalia distances that normally are longer in males than females, were reduced among male newborns whose mothers had higher exposure to dioxins. This is revealed in a study of 700 pregnant women and newborns from Greece and Spain, led by the Centre for Research in Environmental Epidemiology (CREAL), Barcelona.

The anogenital distance that is the distance between the anus and the penis, was reduced by approximately half a mm per 10 picograms (one trillionth of a gram) per gram lipid, of concentration of dioxin-like compounds. Dr. Marina Vafeiadi the first author of the article, mentions that “anogenital distance is a sensitive marker of endocrine disruption and smaller distances have been related to hypospadias (a birth defect of the urethra and penis), cryptorchidism (undescended testis) and also lower semen quality and infertility among young men”. This study provides human data that support the experimental animal evidence used by Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the World Helath Organization (WHO) to set recommendations for human dioxin intake. Dioxins and dioxin-like compounds are persistent chemicals that are by-products of various industrial processes. The main sources of human exposure are foods high in fats mainly of animal origin such as meat, dairy products, and fish.

Dioxins are passed from the mother to the child through the placenta during pregnancy and through breastfeeding postnatally. The use of advanced biomedical techniques allowed the measurement of dioxins and dioxin like compounds in mother’s blood using a test that provides a global estimate of exposure to these compounds. This has provided researchers with information about levels of exposure to these compounds during pregnancy.

According to the study coordinator and joint scientific director from CREAL, Prof. Manolis Kogevinas: “Exposure to dioxins and related compounds has been considerably reduced in industrialized countries the last decades through extensive control measures. Our results indicate, however, that efficient control of persistent compounds requires prolonged time periods to be effective.” The study was conducted together with researchers of the University of Crete (Greece) and the Hospital del Mar Medical Research Institute (IMIM) (Barcelona).

Reference: In Utero Exposure to Dioxins and Dioxin-like Compounds and Anogenital Distance in Newborns and Infants. Environmental Health Perspectives. Marina Vafeiadi, Silvia Agramunt, Eleni Papadopoulou, Harrie Besselink, Kleopatra Mathianaki, Polyxeni Karakosta, Ariana Spanaki, Antonis Koutis, Leda Chatzi, Martine Vrijheid, Manolis Kogevinas.

For further information, please contact: - Gisela Sanmartín, CREAL Communications Manager: - Tel.: +34 93 214 73 33 – +34 696 912 841.

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