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Study Finds Link Between Pesticide Exposure And Brain Abnormalities

May 2nd, 2012

Pesticide exposureA recent U.S. study established a link between the exposure of pregnant women to moderate levels of a commonly used pesticide to the abnormalities in their children’s brain structure resulting in below average intelligence levels. The research, however, failed to prove that the pesticide is the main culprit.

The research exposed the safety concerns regarding the use of the insecticide chlorpyrifos, also known as CPF. The insecticide is commonly used to treat agricultural products in the country but is prohibited from residential use. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency claims that childhood exposure through ingestion of contaminated food is well below the safety limit.

The study, appearing in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, examined pregnant mothers living in New York City who tested positive for CPF exposure. A total of 369 subjects were surveyed before the 2001 ban on the household use of CPF took effect.

Researchers based their findings by comparing twenty children whose mothers have the highest levels of CPF exposures to twenty children whose mothers have mild exposures. “Significant abnormalities” were found among those who belonged to the first group.

The study revealed that women who were exposed to levels even below the threshold limit set by the U.S. showed great risks to their children’s brain development.

Researchers found conclusive evidence of structural changes in children’s brains by examining magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans. They found abnormally enlarged areas, and certain differences between male and female brain structures were eliminated or reversed in those with high levels of exposure.

“The present study provides evidence that the prenatal period is a vulnerable time for the developing child,” according to lead author Virginia Rauh, Deputy Director of the Columbia Center for Children’s Environmental Health and Professor of Clinical Population and Family Health at the Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia University. “Toxic exposure during this critical period can have far-reaching effects on brain development and behavioral functioning.”

Further studies are needed to determine what the long-term effects of these changes are. However, researchers have found a strong link between IQ deficiency and high levels of chlorpyrifos exposure.

Note: Consumers concerned about exposure to pesticides should contact their health care provider directly, or talk to your health insurance company to find out what health care professionals are covered under your plan.


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