DDT Exposure in Grandmothers Linked to Obesity, Earlier Periods in Granddaughters: New Meaning of “Persistence” for an Environmental Chemical Banned 50 Years Ago

June 9, 2021
1:00 pm US Eastern Time

Slides & Resources


Barbara Cohn: Grandmaternal Perinatal Serum DDT in Relation to Granddaughter Early Menarche and Adult Obesity


Piera M. Cirillo, Michele A. La Merrill, Nickilou Y. Krigbaum and Barbara A. Cohn. (2021). Grandmaternal Perinatal Serum DDT in Relation to Granddaughter Early Menarch and Adult Obesity: Three Generations in the Child Health and Development Studies Cohort. Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev 10.1158/1055-9965.EPI-20-1456.

Public Health Institute: DDT Exposure in Grandmothers Linked to Obesity, Earlier Periods in Granddaughters. April 14, 2021.

Meg Wilcox. Pesticide DDT linked to increased breast cancer risk generations after exposure. Environmental Health News. April 15, 2021.

KCRW-FM (Radio) - Los Angeles, CA

Public Health Institute: Barbara A. Cohn, PhD.

Child Health and Development Studies.

Lindsey Konkel: What Three Generations of California Families Can Tell Us About the Links Between Our Health and Our Environment. Ensia. May 16, 2019.

Rosanna Xia. DDT's toxic legacy can harm granddaughters of women exposed, study shows. LA Times. April 4, 2021.

Dr. Cohn discussed her recent publication on how grandmother’s exposure to the pesticide, DDT in the 1960’s, during her pregnancy, is linked to earlier onset of menstrual periods and obesity in her granddaughters. These granddaughters are the current young women now about age 20. This research was made possible by the Child Health and Development Studies where 15,000 pregnant women donated  blood samples during and shortly after their pregnancies in the 1960s. These women have been followed  for their own health and the health of their daughters and granddaughters over 60 years.  This work is the first to show such a 3 generation effect for a pesticide in humans and gives new meaning to the idea of “forever” chemicals. Dr. Cohn discussed what this study means for current generations of women and current environmental issues.

This webinar is one in a monthly series sponsored by the Collaborative on Health and the Environment’s EDC Strategies Partnership. The CHE EDC Strategies Partnership is chaired by Sharyle Patton (Commonweal Biomonitoring Resource Center), Jerry Heindel (Commonweal HEEDS, Healthy Environment and Endocrine Disruptor Strategies), Genon Jensen (HEAL), Sarah Howard (DiabetesandEnvironment.org), and Hannah Donart (Collaborative on Health and the Environment, a Commonweal program). To see a full list of past calls and webinars related to EDCs and listen to or view recordings, please visit our partnership page. 

This webinar was moderated by Jerry Heindel, PhD, founder and director of Commonweal's Healthy Environment and Endocrine Disruptor Strategies (HEEDS). It lasted for 40 minutes and was recorded for our call and webinar archive.

Featured Speakers

Barbara A. Cohn, PhD, is director of the Child Health and Development Studies (CHDS) at PHI. CHDS is home to a groundbreaking study, which originated in 1959, designed to shed light on the various factors impacting health during pregnancy and early childhood. Between 1959 and 1967, 15,000 pregnant women and their families were enrolled. Researchers continue to study these rich data and conduct important follow-up studies to further examine how events during pregnancy impact the subsequent health of fathers, mothers and their children and grandchildren. Cohn consults with researchers around the world on the use of the CHDS data for health research.

In addition, Cohn directs research examining how pregnancy protects against breast cancer and influences other health problems in mothers and their children in order to identify natural protective mechanisms that can be used for prevention. She also investigates whether early life exposure to environmental chemicals during pregnancy affects obesity, immune function, reproductive health, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, neurodevelopment, cancer, and health disparities in mothers and their children across the life span.

Cohn holds a doctorate in epidemiology, a master’s degree in city and regional planning, a master’s degree in public health planning and a bachelor’s degree in zoology, all from the University of California, Berkeley.