Brain Problems in Babies Linked to Pesticide Exposure in Pregnancy - Consumer Justice Foundation

Brain Problems in Babies Linked to Pesticide Exposure in Pregnancy

Written by Andrew Sarski on May 3, 2012
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Brain Problems in Babies Linked to Pesticide Exposure in Pregnancy

A new study has suggested that there may be a connection between brain anomalies in children and a mother’s exposure to pesticides during pregnancy.

Recent research has suggested that there may be a connection between brain anomalies in children and a mother’s exposure to pesticides during pregnancy. The pesticide implicated in the study is a common form of pesticide that has already been banned in homes but is still commonly used on farms and golf courses across the country. Unfortunately, the ability of pesticides to effectively ward off insects is what makes them so dangerous to developing babies. Pesticides and insecticides contain chemicals that attack the nervous system of the insects, causing them to die. Pregnant women who are exposed to insecticides during the first trimester of pregnancy in particular may expose their unborn baby to harmful chemicals that could interfere with the development of their nervous system or neural tube.

Pesticides May Cause Birth Defects in Children

According to the new study, published in the April 30 edition of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers in the United States examined the risk of prenatal exposure to a class of organophosphate insecticides known as chlorpyrifos (CPF), suggesting a correlation between abnormal brain growths and exposure to high levels of the chemical during pregnancy. Significant exposure to pesticides and insecticides is a serious concern for adults, children and expectant mothers, as the California Birth Defects Monitoring Program has observed that pregnant women exposed to household gardening pesticides may also have an increased risk of giving birth to children with birth defects like oral clefts, heart defects, neural tube defects and limb defects.

Brain and Gender Abnormalities Found in Exposed Children

During the study, researchers observed 40 children, 20 of whom were born to mothers who had high exposure to CPF and 20 who had low levels of exposure. The levels of exposure were determined by testing umbilical cord blood. According to the study, children who had high levels of CPF exposure were more likely to have enlarged sections of the right hemisphere of the brain. The enlarged sections of the brain are potentially harmful to developing children and may be linked to some gender abnormalities. The children with high CPF exposure also had brain regions that failed to show expected sex differences, and sometimes had brain features that are typically found in the opposite gender.

Connection Between CPF Pesticide and Brain Anomalies

CPF is no longer used in homes, but it is used to spray Christmas tree farms, golf courses, and is even used to keep insects from nesting on highway dividers. The chemical is also heavily used on corn crops and fruit, which is the most likely source of exposure in pregnant mothers. If you discover that you are pregnant and you live near an agricultural area where pesticides are being used, it is advised that you remove yourself from the area to avoid exposure to these chemicals. While the study found no causal link between pesticide exposure and the abnormal brain growth, researchers determined that there was a “significant association” between the pesticide and structural changes in the developing human brain.

Posted Under: Birth Defects, Neural Tube Defects
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