Researchers have found that exposing a developing female sheep foetus to low doses of commonly present environmental chemicals can disturb the development of the ovary.
The study was conducted by a team of researchers led by Dr. Paul Fowler at the University of Aberdeen, Scotland, UK.
As part of the study to know the effect of long-term, low-level exposure to a cocktail of chemicals and heavy metals in an animal that has a long pregnancy like humans, researchers compared the ovaries from the foetuses of sheep in control group with treatment group.
The control group was grazing fields fertilised with inorganic fertiliser, while the treatment group was grazing digested human sewage sludge fields, before and during pregnancy.
Researchers found that ovaries from the foetuses in the treatment group had fewer eggs and many protein abnormalities.
"We examined the ovaries from the foetuses at day 110 of gestation, the equivalent of week 27 in a human pregnancy, and found that the ovaries from the foetuses where the mother was grazing the sewage sludge fields contained fewer eggs and also a number of protein abnormalities. These differences could have implications for problems such as cancer in later life," Fowler said.
The findings of the study were presented at 23rd annual conference of the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology.