Thursday, May 05, 2011

Exposure to Certain Pesticides Impacts Child Cognitive Development

Researchers at Mount Sinai School of Medicine have found that exposure during pregnancy to a family of pesticides called organophosphates may impair child cognitive development.

From 1998 to 2002, the Mount Sinai Children’s Environmental Health Study enrolled a multiethnic population of more than 400 women in their third trimester of pregnancy.

The research team collected urine samples during pregnancy and analyzed them for the evidence of metabolized pesticides. The women were then invited to participate in follow-up interviews when their children were ages 12 months, 24 months, and six to nine years.

At 12 and 24 months the children were assessed using the Bayley Scales of Infant development, which is a standardized instrument that measures cognitive and psychomotor development in young children. Between the ages of six and nine years, the researchers administered skill and intelligence tests. The researchers found that exposure to organophosphates negatively impacted perceptual reasoning, a measure of nonverbal problem-solving skills.

"Manufacturers withdrew chlorpyrifos and diazinon, two types of organophosphate pesticides, from the residential market. Despite this, general population exposure to organophosphate pesticides is ongoing," said Stephanie Engel, PhD, who led the study while on faculty at Mount Sinai School of Medicine.

Dr. Engel’s team also examined the influence of variants in a key enzyme that metabolizes organophosphates, paraoxonase 1 (PON1). They found that the negative effects of organophosphates were limited to children of mothers who carried a genotype associated with a less efficient version of this enzyme.

"Nearly a third of the mothers in this study carried the PON1 genotype that would put their children at highest risk of negative effects from organophosphate pesticide exposure," said Dr. Engel. "Our study will be published along with two independent studies that examined prenatal organophosphate pesticide exposure in relation to childhood IQ using similar research methods. There are definite similarities in our findings that, taken as a whole, warrant careful consideration."

AllerAir recommends air cleaners with both a deep-bed carbon filter for airborne chemicals and odors and a HEPA filter for fine particles for pregnant women and families with young children.

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