pesticides and kids

Pesticides Are Dumbing Down Our Kids

A trio of studies link prenatal pesticide exposure to lower IQ scores and developmental problems.

By Leah Zerbe


Pesticides Are Dumbing Down Our Kids

Protecting kids from pesticides, even before they're born, could translate to better performance in school.

RODALE NEWS, EMMAUS, PA—Children born to mothers with higher levels of pesticides in their body during pregnancy go on to experience lower IQ scores in elementary school, according to three recent independent reports from different research institutions. These studies out of Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York, University of California–Berkeley School of Public Health, and the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University add credence to a growing body of research linking childhood developmental problems to everyday chemicals in the environment.

THE DETAILS: The studies, which will appear in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives, all linked a particular class of pesticides known as organophosphates—common bug killers—to IQ deficits in children. Collectively, the studies included about 800 women who lived in different parts of the country, including both agricultural and urban settings.

Researchers at Berkeley and Mount Sinai tested the pregnant mothers' urine for organophosphate pesticide breakdown components, while Columbia experts tested umbilical cord blood for a common pesticide called chlorpyrifos. (Chlorpyrifos has turned up on nonorganic apples, kale, bell peppers, and other produce, and scientists are investigating its possible ties to autism.) Researchers then followed up with elementary school–age children years after testing their mothers and found that the prenatal pesticide exposure was associated with negative effects on cognitive function. One study found a 7-point reduction in IQ in children whose mothers had harbored the highest levels of pesticides, versus the group with the lowest levels of pesticides.

Published on: May 3, 2011
Updated on: May 4, 2011

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