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Common insecticide used in homes associated with delayed mental development of young children
Date:2/10/2011

February 9, 2011 -- When the EPA phased out the widespread residential use of chlorpyrifos and other organophosphorus (OP) insecticides in 2000-2001 because of risks to child neurodevelopment, these compounds were largely replaced with pyrethroid insecticides. But the safety of these replacement insecticides remained unclear, as they had never been evaluated for long-term neurotoxic effects after low-level exposure. In the first study to examine the effects of these compounds on humans and the first evaluation of their potential toxicity to the developing fetal brain, scientists of the Columbia Center for Children's Environmental Health at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health found a significant association between piperonyl butoxide (PBO), a common additive in pyrethroid formulations, measured in personal air collected during the third trimester of pregnancy, and delayed mental development at 36 months. Findings from the study are online in the journal, Pediatrics.

The study was conducted with a subset of 725 pregnant women participating in a prospective longitudinal study of black and Dominican women living in upper Manhattan and the South Bronx underway at the Columbia Center for Children's Environmental Health (CCCEH). The insecticide permethrin was selected for the evaluation because it is one of the most common pyrethroid insecticides used in U.S. homes, as well as the most commonly sold pesticide, according to a nationally representative sample. PBO, a chemical that is added to insecticides to increase efficacy was also selected for evaluation. Any detection of PBO in air is a marker of a pyrethroid insecticide application.

In all, 342 women were studied for permethrin exposure in personal air during pregnancy; 272 for permethrin in maternal and umbilical cord plasma; and 230 were evaluated for exposure to PBO. To collect the air samples, mothers from the CCCEH Mothers and Newborns cohort wore a small backpack
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Contact: Stephanie Berger
sb2247@columbia.edu
212-305-4372
Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health
Source:Eurekalert

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