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Pollution Fallout: Are unattractive males Great-gram's fault?

A new study of mate preferences in rodents raises the prospect that pollutant exposures can have behavioral repercussions that persist generation after generation. In the experiment, female rats shunned males whose grandfathers had been exposed in the womb to a fungicide used on fruit crops.

Though brief, the vinclozolin exposures occurred when the fetal males' reproductive organs were developing. The laboratory doses were "four- to fivefold higher than you might expect to see in the environment," notes Michael K. Skinner of Washington State University in Pullman. Some farm workers might incur similar doses, he says.

The fungicide, known as a hormone mimic, prevents male-sex hormones from binding to cells (SN: 7/2/94, p. 15). The hormones then cannot correctly program gene activity in the male fetus' reproductive organs. Reproductive tissues in fetal females appear unaffected.

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