Cape Cod residents who were exposed prenatally to both their mothers’ alcohol use and contaminated drinking water had higher risks of using multiple illicit drugs as teenagers, according a recent study by Boston University School of Public Health (BUSPH) researchers.
The study, published in the journal Environmental Health, found that residents born between 1969 and 1983 who were exposed in utero to tetrachloroethylene (PCE)-contaminated drinking water in eight Cape Cod towns had higher risks of drug use than those not exposed. Similarly, those with alcohol exposure had increased risks. Teenagers exposed to both had the highest risks of using multiple illicit drugs, suggesting an “additive effect of early life exposure” to both substances, the study says.
The authors cautioned that because of study limitations, further research is needed to examine the long-term behavioral effects of the early-life exposures.
Prior studies have demonstrated that exposure to PCE affects neuropsychological function and risk-taking behaviors, while prenatal alcohol exposure has been shown to increase the risk of alcohol disorders later in life. The authors said that, since PCE and alcohol are both solvents, “it is plausible that they act by similar mechanisms on the behaviors under study.”
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