In a new study suggesting pesticides may be associated with the health and development of children, researchers at the University of California, Berkeley’s School of Public Health have found that prenatal exposure to organophosphate pesticides — widely used on food crops — is related to lower intelligence scores at age 7.
The researchers found that every tenfold increase in measures of organophosphates detected during a mother’s pregnancy corresponded to a 5.5 point drop in overall IQ scores in the 7-year-olds. Children in the study with the highest levels of prenatal pesticide exposure scored seven points lower on a standardized measure of intelligence compared with children who had the lowest levels of exposure.We had a report yesterday that sounded like spray drift as far as the Valdosta Mall. The article continues to note that you’re not safe from this problem if you live in a city, even New York City:
“These associations are substantial, especially when viewing this at a population-wide level,” said study principal investigator Brenda Eskenazi, UC Berkeley professor of epidemiology and of maternal and child health. “That difference could mean, on average, more kids being shifted into the lower end of the spectrum of learning, and more kids needing special services in school.”
The UC Berkeley study is among a trio of papers showing an association between pesticide exposure and childhood IQ to be published online April 21 in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives. Notably, the other two studies — one at Mt. Sinai Medical Center, the other at Columbia University — examined urban populations in New York City, while the UC Berkeley study focused on children living in Salinas, an agricultural center in Monterey County, California.One of the authors spells this out:
The studies in New York also examined prenatal exposure to pesticides and IQ in children at age 7. Like the UC Berkeley researchers, scientists at Mt. Sinai sampled pesticide metabolites in maternal urine, while researchers at Columbia looked at umbilical cord blood levels of a specific pesticide, chlorpyrifos.
“It is very unusual to see this much consistency across populations in studies, so that speaks to the significance of the findings,” said lead author Maryse Bouchard, who was working as a UC Berkeley post-doctoral researcher with Eskenazi while this study was underway. “The children are now at a stage where they are going to school, so it’s easier to get good, valid assessments of cognitive function.”
“These findings are likely applicable to the general population,” said Bouchard, who is currently a researcher at the University of Montreal’s Department of Environmental and Occupational Health. “In addition, the other two studies being published were done in New York City, so the connection between pesticide exposure and IQ is not limited to people living in an agricultural community.”We’ve heard from Maryse Bouchard before, last summer, about pesticides found in the urine of school children.
The best known organophosphate pesticide is probably Monsanto’s Roundup, popular hereabouts not only on fields but also on people’s yards. You can at least stop doing it to yourself:
“Many people are also exposed when pesticides are used around homes, schools or other buildings,” said study co-author Asa Bradman, associate director of the Center for Environmental Research in Children’s Health (CERCH) at UC Berkeley.It seems wise not to poison yourself.
The researchers recommended that consumers reduce their home use of pesticides, noting that most home and garden pests can be controlled without those chemicals. If pesticides are needed, they said bait stations should be used instead of sprays.