Prenatal pesticide exposure tied to lower IQ in children

By Sarah Yang, Media Relations
April 20, 2011


In a new study suggesting pesticides may be associated with the health and development of children, researchers at the University of California, Berkeley‚ School of Public Health have found that prenatal exposure to organophosphate pesticides, widely used on food crops, is related to lower intelligence scores at age 7.

The researchers found that every tenfold increase in measures of organophosphates detected during a mother‚ pregnancy corresponded to a 5.5 point drop in overall IQ scores in the 7-year-olds. Children in the study with the highest levels of prenatal pesticide exposure scored seven points lower on a standardized measure of intelligence compared with children who had the lowest levels of exposure.

These associations are substantial, especially when viewing this at a population-wide level, said study principal investigator Brenda Eskenazi, UC Berkeley professor of epidemiology and of maternal and child health. That difference could mean, on average, more kids being shifted into the lower end of the spectrum of learning, and more kids needing special services in school.

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