Posted by Neelam Goswami on September 08, 2008

Pollution is widely known to affect human health in many ways. Now, obesity is the latest in the growing list of health hazards associated with the contamination of environment.

The new research carried out by Spanish researchers has revealed that pollution can make children obese. If babies are exposed to a range of common chemicals while still in the womb they are more likely to become bulky before they turn ten, the study suggests.

Findings of this groundbreaking Spanish study that links chemical contamination in the womb with obesity are published in the current issue of the journal Acta Paediatrica.

To reach their findings, scientists from Barcelona's Municipal Institute of Medical Research measured levels of hexachlorobenzene (HCB), a common pesticide, in the umbilical cords of 403 children born on the Spanish island of Menorca, before their birth.

HCB is an organochlorine fungicide, which was commonly used to treat seeds. Found as a contaminant in the wood preservative pentachlorophenol, HCB has been banned worldwide but is extremely persistent in the environment.

The researchers measured each child’s height and weight at six and a half years of age, and found that those with highest HCB exposure were twice as likely to be obese than those who had lower levels of contaminants in their cord blood.

“The prevalence of obesity has increased at an alarming level of at least 300 million people worldwide. Additionally, other diseases like diabetes will increase in prevalence as well. Protection for this possible diabetes epidemic is needed.” Concluded the study and added that prenatal exposure to contaminants like HCB has to be minimized.

Dr Pete Myers, chief scientist at the US-based Environmental Health Sciences Organisation, billed the Spanish study's findings as "very important". “It is the first good study of the effects on the foetus. Its conclusions are not surprising, given what we know from the animal experiments, but it firmly links such chemicals to the biggest challenge facing public health today," he said.

Obesity is one of the biggest health problems prevailing in the world. Along with obesity come blood pressure problems, heart diseases etc.

After years of skyrocketing growth, the rate of childhood obesity has slowed down, a team of US researchers revealed in May this year. However, the level is still more than three times than it was in the 1970s, they said at the time.

According to the latest estimates, a quarter of all British adults and a fifth of children suffer from obesity, with at least 300 million people obese worldwide.

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