(NaturalNews) Great Lakes boat captains who eat more fish have higher levels of the DDT byproduct DDE in their blood and a significantly higher risk of diabetes than other captains, according to a study conducted by researchers from the Wisconsin Division of Public Health, funded by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives.
DDE is produced when bottom feeders ingest the potent pesticide DDT and break it down slightly in their bodies. When these fish are eaten by larger fish, the toxin moves up the food chain until consumed by humans. Like DDT, DDE accumulates in the fat cells of living organisms.
Although DDT was banned from the United States in the early 1970s for its destructive effects on the reproductive systems of wildlife, residue from pesticide used decades ago still persists in lakes across the country. To make matters worse, many other countries worldwide continue to use the toxin.
"DDT gets thrown up in the atmosphere and can be deposited by rain and snow attached to particles which settle at the bottom of the lakes," said Bruce Fowler of the CDC's Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. "The toxins are released by Asia and settle in North America. The jet stream carries a lot of things besides temperature and rain."
The researchers found that captains who ate more fish had higher DDE levels, and also that captains with higher DDE levels had a higher risk of diabetes. They could not determine the cause of the diabetes -- whether a chemical linked to DDE or DDE itself, or how DDE might cause the disease.
Although mercury is also found in high levels in fish and has also been linked to diabetes, the researchers noted that this could not explain the correlation between DDE levels and diabetes, as mercury and DDE travel separately.
Fish also tend to be high in another toxin known as PCBs, which can cause cancer and disrupt the endocrine system.