Pesticide Exposure Before Birth Linked To Lower IQ

Another study has found a link between <"">pesticides and adverse health risks, this time—and not for the first time—with children. Expectant mothers exposed to high amounts of specific pesticides tend to give birth to children with lower IQs when compared to their nonexposed peers, by the time they reach school age, said CNN, citing a just-released government study.

Typically sprayed on food crops and found on fruits and vegetables, organophosphates, which kill pests via their central nervous system, are also used in homes and gardens, although their use has been largely restricted because of environmental and human health risks.

Prior studies linked organophosphates to developmental delays and attention problems in young children exposed to the toxin while in utero, said CNN. Now, two separate sets of research reveal that children’s IQ scores decrease proportionally with the expectant mother’s exposure to the chemicals, explained CNN. A third study pointed to delays.

One study followed hundreds of mothers and children in Salinas Valley, California—mothers were typically Latino and most were farm workers or had a family member who was a farm worker. Urine levels were tested and indicated that mothers with the highest metabolites gave birth to children whose IQ at age seven was about seven points lower that children whose mothers had the lowest exposure levels; the average IQ was 100, said CNN.

“That’s not unlike the decreases we see in children with high lead exposure,” says the senior study author, Brenda Eskenazi, Ph.D., professor of epidemiology and maternal and child health at the University of California, Berkeley. “It’s equivalent to performing six months behind the average,” quoted CNN. The study suggests that prenatal, not childhood, exposure is responsible for the trend, Eskenazi says. In other words, organophosphates, which pass from mother to baby via the placenta and umbilical cord, might be more dangerous to the fetus than to children, the study indicated, said CNN.

The second study, conducted in New York City, looked at 265 black and Dominican mothers and their children; all were from low-income families, said CNN. Organophosphate chlorpyrifos in the mothers’ umbilical cord blood was measured. Chlorpyrifos, banned for indoor use, were widely used for residential pesticide at the time when the women were pregnant, noted CNN. Both studies used the same IQ tests. This study found that for children with the greatest in utero exposure, their scores were about three points lower than those with the lowest prenatal exposure to the chemical, explained CNN.

A third study looked at children in New York City and revealed that the link between organophosphates and developmental delays was more significant in children whose mothers had a certain genetic variant that influences an enzyme that breaks down organophosphates. The three studies appear in the April 21 issue of the journal Environmental Health Perspectives.

We also recently wrote that new research indicated that children exposed to organophosphate pesticides while in utero are likelier to develop attention disorders later in life.

We have also written that one such pesticide in the group organoposphate 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 and is known to be toxic to humans and can cause muscle spasms, dizziness, and seizures.

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