Prenatal Exposure to Insecticide Chlorpyrifos Linked to Alterations in Brain Structure and Cognition

 

While No Longer Registered for Household Use in the U.S., the Insecticide Is Widely Used Around the World and in U.S. Agriculture

(Columbia University, Mailman School of Public Health, April 30, 2012) Even low to moderate levels of exposure to the insecticide chlorpyrifos during pregnancy may lead to long-term, potentially irreversible changes in the brain structure of the child, according to a new brain imaging study by researchers from the Columbia Center for Children’s Environmental Health at the Mailman School of Public Health, Duke University Medical Center, Emory University, and the New York State Psychiatric Institute. The changes in brain structure are consistent with cognitive deficits found in children exposed to this chemical.

Results of the study appear online in the April 30 PNAS.

The new study is the first to use MRI to identify the structural evidence for these cognitive deficits in humans, confirming earlier findings in animals. Changes were visible across the surface of the brain, with abnormal enlargement of some areas and thinning in others. The disturbances in brain structure are consistent with the IQ deficits previously reported in the children with high exposure levels of chlorpyrifos, or CPF, suggesting a link between prenatal exposure to CPF and deficits in IQ and working memory at age 7.

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