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Environmental Toxins & Liver Disease: A Link?

Study Says Low-Level Exposures May Explain Rise in Liver Disease

Environmental Toxins & Liver Disease: Study Details continued...

He found that 34.1% of the 4,582 participants had abnormal ALT levels.

Even after adjusting for such variables as obesity, race, sex, poverty, and diabetes, he says, "the results indicate that there may be a previously unexpected role for environmental pollution in the rising incidence of liver disease in the U.S. population. Clearly, more work needs to be done."

Although the link doesn't prove cause and event, Cave notes that previous animal studies have demonstrated the presence of liver disease in those exposed to many of the chemicals he is talking about.

Until more research is done, Cave says people could protect themselves by reducing or minimizing exposures to chemicals such as lead, found in old house paint, and to mercury, found in certain fish.

Environmental Toxins & Liver Disease: Second Opinion

The study results are "very important" and deserve attention, says Gina Solomon, MD, MPH, a senior scientist at the Natural Resources Defense Council in San Francisco, who reviewed the study for WebMD. "But it's hard to come to any solid conclusion based on this study alone."

"There is a chance they would find an association by statistical chance alone, because they looked at so many [toxins.]"

Some of the toxins associated with liver damage in the recent study, she says, have also been linked to liver damage in other studies, but at high levels of exposures. "The thing that is so dramatic about this study is they found associations at the levels that are in the general population. There's no surprise that these chemicals can cause liver disease, but previous research has always suggested that the doses needed to be much higher.

"The striking thing about this is that these are levels within the range that you or I might have in our bodies."

Although more study is needed, Solomon says that "If it holds up, it implies that some portion of the burden of liver disease out there in the U.S. may be due to chemical exposure outside the workplace."

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