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Pesticide exposure penetrates the womb and affects blood and brain

Harvard school of Public Health released alarming data that children in Ecuador whose mothers were exposed to pesticides while pregnant had increased blood pressure and diminished ability // to copy geometric figures as compared to a control group. This is the result of an epidemiological study in the March issue of Paediatrics.

Philippe Grandjean, adjunct professor in the Department of Environmental Health at HSPH led a team of researchers and analyzed data on 72 children aged seven or eight years old in the rural Tabacundo-Cayambe area in Northern Ecuador. A physician examined the children and given a battery of standardized tests for neurobehavioral functions. Mothers of thirty-seven children described occupational histories indicated that they had been exposed to pesticides during pregnancy.

The average systolic blood pressure was higher in exposed children than in those who were unexposed (104.0 mm Hg versus 99.4 mm Hg). Nine children exceeded the approximate 95th percentile of 113 mm Hg. Seven of those children had prenatal pesticide exposure.

Due to prevalence of malnutrition in that area the authors used delayed growth, or stunting, to explore the role of nutrients in the study's results. Stunting was associated with decreased copying ability in both exposed and non-exposed children. They therefore concluded that prenatal pesticide exposure may add to the already deleterious effects of malnutrition.

Philippe Grandjean said, "These results suggest that more attention should be paid to protecting the developing brain and that we should seriously consider adopting and enforcing a greater margin of safety in protecting both foetuses and children from potential toxic exposures.”


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