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Pesticides may be behind rising C-sections

Researchers said pesticides were found to be affecting the metabolism of the mothers
Last Updated : 28 October 2021, 02:35 IST

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For nearly a decade now, researchers have been watching India’s C-Section rate nearly double from 8.5% to 17.2% in the span of 10 years. A pioneering study has now determined that this could be due to pesticides.

A study of 221 pregnant women by researchers at King’s College Medical School in Lucknow has found that organo-chlorine pesticides are damaging DNA, decreasing the hormone progesterone and altering antioxidant defence mechanisms in pregnant women, steering pregnancies towards caesarean, preterm births.

The researchers found that 104 women (or 47%) had undergone a preterm delivery with under 36 gestational weeks while the remaining 117 women had undergone full term delivery. The average age of the women was 26.

Researchers said pesticides were found to be affecting the metabolism of the mothers. “This presents serious long-term ramifications on children, such as neurological effects and diabetes,” explained Dr Abbas Ali Mahdi, of King’s College and Secretary General of the Indian Academy of Biomedical Sciences and corresponding author for the study.

The researchers suggested that this could also be one reason for the high burden of diabetes in India, but added that additional studies are required to investigate this link.

“A clear trend was observed for preterm babies with their lower birth weight and cesarean mode of delivery,” researchers added in the study, which was published in the journal Environmental Research.

“Therefore, reduction in birth weight in newborns may be the consequence of increased oxidative damage and genotoxicity brought about by pesticides and these markers could be employed for early detection of pesticide-related ailments and toxicities.”

To carry out the study, the researchers collected maternal and umbilical cord blood samples during the time of childbirth.

These samples were then analysed for contamination to pesticides, nuclear damage, and antioxidants.

The analysis detected recently used pesticides such as: DDT, Malathion, Cypermethrin, Chlorpyrifos, HCH, SS Dichlorvos, Fenvalerate, Profenofos, Cyhalothrin-L, Endosulfan, Imidacloprid, Deltamethrin, Aldrin, Dieldrin, Endrin aldehyde and Cyfluthrin- I, II. “Although all of the women came from the lower income strata of society, none of the women was occupationally prone to exposure to pesticides,” Dr Mahdi specified. He added that the findings of the study show that regulatory bodies have to come in to necessitate stringent guidelines for agricultural use of pesticides.

Weighing in on the study as an independent expert, Dr Sheela Mane, the past president of the Bangalore Society of Obstetrics and Gynaecology (BSOG), said that the Lucknow study shows that other randomised studies are required, especially in Karnataka, to determine the effect of pesticides on pregnant mothers. “Food grain studies have to be conducted to determine the extent of leaching of pesticides into people. There could be long-term effects of this, such as cancer,” she said.

Over 410 mothers had originally been approached. Those having infectious diseases like HIV or having any other pathological diseases that increased the likelihood of pre-term deliveries, including bacterial vaginosis, intrauterine infection were excluded - as were mothers with non-genital tract infections, such as pyelonephritis and asymptomatic bacteriuria, pneumonia, and appendicitis and also medical disorders such as asthma, diabetes and hypertension. “These exclusions were motivated by our goal to determine whether pesticides contamination alone, not mediated by or through these comorbid conditions, contributed to pre-term risks,” Dr Mahdi said.

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Published 27 October 2021, 19:38 IST

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