A human girl develops their eggs while in the womb. A mother not only holds her daughter but the eggs of her grandchildren…
A team of researchers at Wayne State University have discovered that mothers with high levels of lead in their blood not only affect the fetal cells of their unborn children, but also their grandchildren. Their study, Multigenerational epigenetic inheritance in humans: DNA methylation changes associated with maternal exposure to lead can be transmitted to the grandchildren, was published online this week in Scientific Reports.
Lead-based paint and leaded gasoline weren’t banned until the late 1980s and still pose a significant health risk to many vulnerable populations (e.g. young children). Interestingly, leaded gasoline was actually phased out because it was causing the newly invented catalytic converters to get clogged. It wasn’t until after leaded gasoline was banned that people made the connection between high blood lead levels and leaded gasoline use.
Lead mostly poses a health risk to minorities and low-income residents though. Areas where homes are still coated with untreated lead-based paint that has now began to peel off and contaminate the soil. Children that are crawling on the floor/ground will get lead on their hands and later put their fingers in their mouths–this is the most common way.
Lead poses a unique risk to women (and children) due to the fact that lead is stored in the bones. During pregnancy, lead becomes agitated and will re-enter the bloodstream and be passed on to the child.
Today, researchers still have not found a toxicity threshold for lead, which essentially means that any amount of lead will have adverse health effects. Low-level lead poisoning negatively effects cognitive functioning and can cause individuals to exhibit lower IQs.
The Thrifty Phenotype (AKA Barker Hypothesis) – intergenerational disease risk in an elegant little bundle. First documented in Dutch children born in times of famine during WWII I think it was, but recognized all over now. You could use known week of conception and a chart showing just when citrus became hard to come by in a given region to predict weight or head-to-waist circumference ratio at birth. And while that’s cool on its own, you could also use similar info to predict an individual’s risk for heart disease or or diabetes in adulthood.