Farming News - Prenatal exposure to insecticide can affect brain

Prenatal exposure to insecticide can affect brain

01 May 2012
Frontdesk / Arable

A new study from the United States has shown that chlorpyrifos, a widely used insecticide, can harm unborn children at even low to moderate levels.


According to the study, conducted by researchers at Columbia University’s mailman School of Public Health, even low to moderate levels of exposure to the insecticide during pregnancy can lead to long-term, potentially irreversible changes in the brain structure of the child.


The researchers used MRI brain imaging which revealed changes in brain structure consistent with cognitive deficits found in children exposed to chlorpyrifos. The study, published yesterday in the PNAS journal, found that prenatal exposure to the chemical could affect childrens’ IQ and a number of brain functions.


The researchers have warned that their study revealed adverse effects even when prenatal exposure was below the current United States Environmental Protection Agency threshold for toxicity.


Lead author, Professor Virginia Rauh said, "By measuring a biomarker of chlorpyrifos exposure during pregnancy, and following the children prospectively from birth into middle childhood, the present study provides evidence that the prenatal period is a vulnerable time for the developing child, and that toxic exposure during this critical period can have far-reaching effects on brain development and behavioral functioning."


"By combining brain imaging and community-based research, we now have much stronger evidence linking exposure to chlorpyrifos with neurodevelopmental problems."


The children and their mothers who took part in the study were exposed to the insecticide in New York City before chlorpyrifos was banned for household use by the EPA in 2001.


Although the chemical degrades rapidly when exposed to sunlight and water, the insecticide, originally manufactured by DOW Chemical, has been linked to a number of damaging effects; studies over the last two years have cast light on its impact on bees and its potential to cause cancer and have effects on cognitive function in children.