Toxin exposure may cause rise in asthma

ITHACA, N.Y., Oct. 10,2005 (UPI)

A Cornell University study suggests exposure of developing fetuses and newborns to low levels of environmental toxins may result in asthma.

Rod Dietert, professor of immunotoxicology at Cornell's College of Veterinary Medicine, said toxins, such as lead, mercury and dioxin, as well as nicotine and ethanol, could be behind the recent sharp rises in asthma, allergies and autoimmune disorders like lupus.

The real dangers from environmental toxins most likely occur early in life, said Dietert. But he noted most laboratory studies look at the health effects of the toxins on adult animals.

"We are deluding ourselves to think adult data are going to allow us to understand the risks of perinatal exposures," said Dietert, referring to the period close to the time of birth. "Right now, we underestimate health risks that are occurring due to early exposure."

He advocates a more detailed two-generation screening in which information on toxins and their impact on immune systems is recorded not only for the adult mother, but also for her offspring.

Dietert presented a paper on his research Oct. 4 during the 14th Immunotoxicology Summer School Conference in Lyon, France.


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