Pesticide Exposure before Birth Linked to Attention Disorders

Emerging research is indicating that children exposed to organophosphate pesticides while in utero are likelier to develop attention disorders later in life, wrote Science Daily. The study was conducted by researchers at the University of California, Berkeley and appear in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives (EHP).

The study is the first of its kind to look at prenatal organophosphate exposure on the future attention development problems later in life and discovered that prenatal levels of organophosphate metabolites were most definitely associated with attention problems by the time the children reached the age of five, with boys more significantly affected than girls, said Science Daily.

Organophosphates are found in trace quantities on fruit and vegetables that are grown commercially. One such pesticide in that group is chlorpyrifos, once sold by Dow Chemical as the household pesticide <"">Dursban. Though Dursban was banned for sale in the US several years ago, chlorpyrifos is still widely used in agriculture. Chlorpyrifos is known to be toxic to humans and can cause muscle spasms, dizziness, seizures, vomiting, diarrhea and paralysis.

In July, the Natural Resources Defense Council and Pesticide Action Network North America have filed a lawsuit in federal court in New York seeking a total ban on chlorpyrifos. The two groups are seeking to force the Environmental Protection Agency to act on a three-year-old petition to remove the product from the market. EarthJustice filed the lawsuit on behalf of the two groups.

This latest study involved over 300 children participating in the Center for the Health Assessment of Mothers and Children of Salinas (CHAMACOS), which was a longitudinal study led by Eskenazi and that analyzed environmental exposures and reproductive health, said Science Daily. The research revealed that the mother and children participants were Mexican-Americans who reside in an agricultural community, said Science Daily. Because of these demographic specifics, the team concluded that their pesticide exposure is probably higher and more routine that that of the general population in the United States.

Regardless, said the researchers, the pesticides involved are fairly common in the United States, which points to a need for increased protection, wrote Science Daily.

“It’s known that food is a significant source of pesticide exposure among the general population,” the study’s principal investigator, Brenda Eskenazi, UC Berkeley professor of epidemiology and of maternal and child health, told Science daily. “I would recommend thoroughly washing fruits and vegetables before eating them, especially if you’re pregnant,” These particular pesticides disrupt neurotransmitters, especially the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, which critical to maintaining attention and short-term memory, noted Science Daily.

“Given that these compounds are designed to attack the nervous system of organisms, there is reason to be cautious, especially in situations where exposure may coincide with critical periods of fetal and child development,” said study lead author Amy Marks, an analyst at UC Berkeley’s School of Public Health at the time of the study, wrote Science Daily.

Much research is also indicating that children with certain genetic traits could face increased risks, such as two-year-olds with decreased levels of paraoxonase 1 (PON1), an enzyme that breaks down the dangerous metabolites of organophosphate, experiencing increased neurodevelopmental delays versus children with increased enzyme levels, said Science Daily. The team concluded that certain populations with specific PON1 genotypes could be more sensitive to pesticide exposure.

This entry was posted in Health Concerns, Toxic Substances. Bookmark the permalink.

© 2005-2019 Parker Waichman LLP ®. All Rights Reserved.