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Pollution and Obesity

February 23, 2007

Could pollution be a cause of the obesity epidemic?


Can pollution make you fat? I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

New research shows that a class of common pollutants causes lab animals to gain weight, raising questions about whether they’re contributing to growing obesity rates in people. The pollutants are organotins, and they’re used in plastics, wood preservatives, fungicides, and other products. In several experiments, biologist Bruce Blumberg of the University of California, Irvine, has found the chemicals cause weight gain in mice and frogs.

BRUCE BLUMBERG (University of California, Irvine):
Obesity is a very complex disorder. There are factors related to the genetics of the individual involved. There are factors related to environment—the amount of exercise to the kind of diet people have. But this is one risk factor which we haven’t heard much about yet.

He says more data is needed to find out just how big a risk these and similar pollutants might present.
I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.