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Exposure to chemical increases risk of bipolar disorder


The solvent tetrachloroethylene (PCE) widely used in industrial applications and particularly for dry cleaning is a known neurotoxin which causes mood changes, anxiety, and depression in people who work directly with it. The long term effect on children who are exposed to it is less known. There has been some indication that the children of people who work with PCE may have a higher risk of schizophrenia.

An exciting new opportunity has been found to study the effects of PCE on children. From 1968 until the early 1980s, water companies in a very specific area of Massachusetts installed vinyl lined water pipes. Eventually it was discovered that PCE was leaching into the drinking water supply. Researchers have been able to follow the incidences of mental health issues in this community, among the adults and among the children born to those adults who were exposed. These children were born between 1969 and 1983 and were exposed as small children and also in pre-birth.

While there was no discernible increase in the amounts of depression, no matter the level of exposure to PCE, people who had an exposure to PCE prenatally or in early childhood were almost twice as likely to risk bipolar disorder when compared to an unexposed group. Furthermore, their risk of acquiring PTSD was 50 percent higher.

“It is impossible to calculate the exact amount of PCE these people were exposed to – levels of PCE were recorded as high as 1,550 times the currently recommended safe limit. While the water companies flushed the pipes to address this problem, people are still being exposed to PCE in the dry cleaning and textile industries, and from consumer products, and so the potential for an increased risk of illness remains real,” said Dr. Ann Aschengrau from Boston University School of Public Health.

Source: ScienceDaily, Environmental Health

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