An article published on May 21, 2018 in the peer-reviewed journal JAMA Pediatrics reported on multigenerational effects of prenatal exposure to an estrogenic substance, diethylstilbestrol (CAS 56-53-1). Marianthi-Anna Kioumourtzoglou from the Department of Environmental Health Sciences, Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health, New York, U.S., together with a team of researchers from other U.S. institutions, studied a cohort of 47,540 nurses and their children. The scientists examined the frequency of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) among the children of mothers who were exposed to diethylstilbestrol during their own prenatal development, i.e., during the grandmothers’ pregnancy. They have indeed found an increased occurrence of third-generation neurodevelopmental outcomes among the children of mothers exposed to diethylstilbestrol prenatally.
This study provides a crucial piece of evidence demonstrating that multigenerational effects, previously observed only in animal studies, do occur in humans as well. Commenting on environmental exposures to estrogenic substances, the authors said that “the doses and potency level of environmental endocrine disruptors to which humans are exposed are lower than those of diethylstilbestrol, but the prevalence of such exposure and the possibility of cumulative action are potentially high and thus warrant consideration.”
The association between ADHD and exposure to some estrogenic substances has been reported previously, although not yet across multiple generations. For example, an article published on May 10, 2018 in the peer-reviewed journal Environmental Health Perspectives reported on the association between mothers’ exposure to phthalates during pregnancy, and later ADHD diagnosis in their children. In this study, Stephanie Engel from the Gillings School of Global Public Health, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, North Carolina, U.S., together with colleagues from the U.S. and Norway, worked with the Norwegian Mother and Child Cohort. They found that urinary concentrations of di-2-ethylhexyl phthalate (DEHP, CAS 117-81-7) in mothers were “monotonically associated with increased risk of ADHD” in children.
Association of another widely used estrogenic substance, bisphenol A (BPA, CAS 80-05-7), with ADHD has also been reported. For example, Shruti Tewar and colleagues from the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, Cincinnati, U.S., examined a national sample of U.S. children and found that “higher urinary BPA concentrations were associated with ADHD,” with associations in boys stronger than in girls.
Fiona McMillan (May 25, 2018). “Banned pregnancy med still affecting daughters, grandchildren.” Cosmos
Kioumourtzoglou, M.-A., et al. (2018). “Association of exposure to diethylstilbestrol during pregnancy with multigenerational neurodevelopmental deficits.” JAMA Pediatrics (published May 21, 2018).
Engel, S., et al. (2018) “Prenatal phthalates, maternal thyroid function, and risk of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder in the Norwegian Mother and Child Cohort.” Environmental Health Perspectives (published May 10, 2018).
Tewar, S., et al. (2016). “Association of bisphenol A and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder in a national sample of U.S. children.” Environmental Research 150:112-118.