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Exposure to pesticide chlorpyrifos impacts fetal brain development

Filed May 2nd, 2012 Joshua Sophy

Prenatal exposure to the pesticide chlorpyrifos has been linked to slowly developing brains and other developmental disorders, according to a new study.

WebMD.com reports on new research from Columbia Center for Children’s Environmental Health at the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University that show exposure to chlorpyrifos prenatally can affect the cortex of the brain of a developing fetus and impair development after birth. They compared the brain of a child exposed to high levels of this pesticide to that of a child who experienced no or reduced exposure and found large differences in brain volume. This suggested to them that exposure to chlorpyrifos impairs brain development.

Chlorpyrifos was banned for residential use in 2001 by the Environmental Protection Agency but is still commonly used in public parks and golf courses and is often applied to agricultural crops, meaning exposure to the pesticide is still highly likely either through airborne contact or through the food supply.

Using test subjects conceived between 1998 and 2001, prior to the residential ban, the research team was able to identify 20 children exposed to chlorpyrifos and another 20 who hadn’t been exposed to the pesticide, based on blood samples taken from their umbilical cords, and found that MRIs on their brains revealed “enlargements in some areas” and reduced volumes in other areas among children exposed to the pesticide.

The study is published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences’ Early Edition.

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