On October 1, 2013 the scientific journal Environmental Health Perspectives (EHP) published a news article on the transgenerational effects of environmental exposures to endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs). Charles Schmidt, science writer for Science and Nature Medicine, depicts that reproductive effects from environmental chemicals may persist for four generations. Effects that persist for more than three generations are considered transgenerational effects, whereas effects that persist for less than three generations are called multigenerational effects. Transgenerational effects from the fourth generation onwards can be definitely linked to epigenetic changes. Epigenetic changes are heritable changes to marks on the DNA, but not the DNA sequence itself. Examples include changes in methylation. Schmidt reports that such transgenerational effects have been found for a variety of EDCs, including di(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate (DEHP) and bisphenol A (BPA). Both DEHP and BPA are used in food contact materials (FCM). Schmidt details that transgenerational effects observed for EDCs include reproductive changes, effects on the autoimmune system, cardiovascular effects, metabolic changes and cancer. The research funds offered by the U.S. National Institute for Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) will address both the mechanisms involved as well as the identification of the number of chemicals which are thought to exert these effects. David Crews, professor of biology and psychology at the University of Texas at Austin, U.S., asserts in the article that all humans and animals have body burdens of EDCs. Findings from the current research efforts will elucidate the role of ‘nature versus nurture’ in human chronic disease, i.e. understanding the interplay between genetics and environment in development of non-communicable diseases.

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Charles Schmidt (October 1, 2013). “Uncertain Inheritance: Transgenerational Effects of Environmental Exposures.Environmental Health Perspectives 121, 10, A292-303.