29 September 2012

Women Exposed To Herbicide Atrazine 80% More Likely Of Having Children With Rare Nasal Disorder, Choanal Atresia

Choanal Atrasia is a rare congenital disorder where the back of the infant's nasal passage is blocked. This area of the nasal system is called the choana.

Although rare, with 1 out of 7,000 births having this disorder, choanal atrasia is the most popular of nasal disorders among infants.

Choanal atrasia may affect only one nostril or both. Babies with both nostrils blocked tend to cry a lot because it is only when they cry that they are able to breath through their mouths. During delivery, these babies have difficulty breathing and immediately needs assistance and even resuscitation.

For some babies who have learned to mouth-breathe, the disorder becomes a problem when they sleep as they revert to nose breathing in that stage.

Choanal atrasia may be detected by physical examination and medical imaging techniques such as CAT scans, endoscopy, and x-rays. Once it is verified that the patient is suffering from the disorder, surgery is the recommended medical treatment.

Study: Exposure to herbicide may increase risk of rare disorder

A common herbicide used in the United States may be linked to an increased risk of a congenital abnormality of the nasal cavity known as choanal atresia, say researchers at Baylor College of Medicine and other Texas institutions.

The study by Dr. Philip Lupo, assistant professor of pediatrics – hematology/oncology at BCM and Texas Children's Cancer Center, is scheduled for publication in The Journal of Pediatrics.

Video: Choanal Atresia

Choanal atresia is a disorder where the back of the nasal passage is blocked by tissue formed during fetal development. It is a rare condition but can be serious because it affects a baby's ability to breath. It is typically treated through surgery.

Very few risk factors for choanal atresia have been identified, however chemicals that disrupt the maternal endocrine system may be associated with risk, according to Lupo. The study focused on atrazine, which is the most commonly used herbicide in the U.S. – especially in corn crops – and is believed to be an endocrine disrupter.

"Endocrine disrupters aren't fully understood, but it is believed they interfere with or mimic certain hormones, thereby blocking their proper function and potentially leading to adverse outcomes," Lupo said.

The study found that mothers who lived in Texas counties with the highest levels of estimated atrazine application were 80 percent more likely to have children with choanal atresia or stenosis compared to women who lived in the counties with the lowest levels. Choanal stenosis is a less severe form of the condition.

Data for the study was collected from the Texas Birth Defects Registry.

"Our results warrant more detailed exploration before any public health or policy-related recommendations are made," Lupo said, "but this study is a good first step in trying to understand the origin of this birth defect, including a possible role of atrazine."


Baylor College of Medicine
Texas Children's Cancer Center
Journal of Pediatrics
Texas Birth Defects Registry Epidemiology and Surveillance
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