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Dioxin's long reach

From Boston, at a meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science

Breast development is delayed in teenage girls exposed to the pollutant dioxin in the womb and as infants, finds a long-term Dutch study that tracked mother-baby pairs from birth through puberty.

"Dioxin throws a monkey wrench into a number of cellular processes," says Linda Birnbaum of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, whose rat studies support the new results.

Scientists became aware of dioxin's detrimental health effects in the early 1970s. Janna Koppe, a pediatrician at the University of Amsterdam, says she and her colleagues began their study after research showed that people in the Netherlands were exposed to dioxin levels twice as high as in other European countries. In addition to 14 mother-baby pairs originally enrolled in 1987, 120 pairs joined the study in 1990 and 1991.

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