The World War II generation may have passed down to their grandchildren the effects of chemical exposure in the 1940s, possibly explaining current rates of obesity, autism and mental illness, according to one researcher.
David Crews, professor of psychology and zoology at the University of Texas at Austin, theorized that the rise in these diseases may be linked to environmental effects passed on through generations. His research showed that descendants of rats exposed to a crop fungicide were less sociable, more obese and more anxious than offspring of the unexposed.
The results, published today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, are part of a growing field of study that suggests environmental damage to cells can cause inherited changes and susceptibility to disease. Crews said his findings are applicable to humans.