Researchers Call for a Ban on Widely Used Insecticides

Public health experts have found sufficient evidence that prenatal exposure to widely used insecticides known as organophosphates puts children at risk for neurodevelopmental disorders.

In a scientific review published in PLOS Medicine, researchers call to phase out all organophosphates. “There is compelling evidence that exposure of pregnant women to very low levels of organophosphate pesticides is associated with lower IQs and difficulties with learning, memory or attention in their children,” said lead author Irva Hertz-Picciotto, professor of public health sciences.

“Although a single organophosphate, chlorpyrifos, has been in the national spotlight, our review implicates the entire class of these compounds,” Hertz-Picciotto added.

Developed as nerve gases originally, organophosphates are used to control insects on farms, yards and golf courses, in shopping malls and in schools.

Organophosphate pesticides can be detected in the vast majority of people in the U.S. Exposure to organophosphates before birth, even at levels currently considered safe, is associated with poorer cognitive, behavioral and social development.

It should be no surprise that these chemicals alter brain development, since they are designed to hurt the central nervous system.

Despite the harm many organophosphates remain in use. In part because the typical low-level exposure doesn’t cause symptoms in the short term, leading to the incorrect assumption that these exposures are inconsequential.

The review team included Hertz-Picciotto, Jennifer Sass, Stephanie Engel, Deborah Bennett, Asa Bradman and Brenda Eskenazi, Bruce Lamphear, Robin Wyatt. “Organophosphate Exposure During Pregnancy and Child Neurodevelopment: Recommendations for Essential Policy Reforms,” can be found here.



Image: “Baygon Insecticide” by Mark Morgan is licensed underCC BY 2.0