Exposure to Pesticides Cause Measurable Effects on Brain Structure of Children
Many patients touch base with me before they travel somewhere asking if I recommend any vaccinations or precautions. During the height of the Zika virus scare, several patients canceled trips to mosquito endemic regions. I don’t blame them, since most of them were considering pregnancy or actually pregnant at the time of the planned trip.
Here’s what I find so interesting. We are surrounded daily by external influences that can cause damage to the undeveloped fetal brain, and there are no mentions of this on the news. No flashing red lights or warnings about potential side effects to the unborn fetus with exposure to pesticides, for example.
Here’s a study I wish made the evening news: researchers tested umbilical cord blood samples looking for an association between exposure to chlorpyrifos (CPF), a pesticide, and changes in brain morphology of children. Chlorpyrifos is an organophosphate insecticide used primarily to control foliage and soil-borne insect pests on a variety of food and feed crops. Chlorpyrifos has been used as a pesticide since 1965 in both agricultural and non-agricultural areas.
The largest agricultural market for chlorpyrifos is corn. It is also used on soybeans, fruit and nut trees, Brussels sprouts, cranberries, broccoli, and cauliflower, as well as other row crops. Non-agricultural uses include: golf courses, turf, green houses, and non-structural wood treatments, such as utility poles and fence posts.
Researchers tested umbilical cord blood samples to measure prenatal exposure to chlorpyrifos and compared 20 high exposure children with 20 low exposure children. Using MRI to detect changes in the developing human brain of these children between ages 6 and 11 years old, the data showed that the high-exposure children had frontal and parietal cortical brain thinning and an inverse dose-response relationship between CPF and cortical thickness. That is, the higher the exposure the thinner the cortex of the brain. Prenatal exposures to CPF and other organophosphate pesticides are linked to smaller head size, lower birth weight, abnormal neonatal reflexes, and attention problems. It was concluded that prenatal exposure at high but routine levels of exposure had measurable effects on brain structure in children.
Some of the findings concluded that affected areas involved attention, receptive function, social cognition, reward, emotion, and inhibitory control as well as executive functioning. Changes were documented in size and morphology. Some of these observations parallel some of the findings in children diagnosed with ADHD, right? So it reinforces what we all see happening—- kids are being exposed in utero to chemicals that have an effect on brain development. They are demonstrating effects of these exposures, and we want to medicate them to “help” them in school. It’s nuts.
Instead, how about we avoid the widespread use of these chemicals so our future generations can live healthy, productive, and long lives? This should be the headliner.
Rauh VA, et al. Brain anomalies in children exposed prenatally to a common organophosphate pesticide. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2012 May 15;109(20):7871-6. doi: 10.1073/pnas.1203396109
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