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Study Finds Pesticide Affects Fetal Development
(from January 23, 2003)

A recent study by the Columbia Center for Children's Environmental Health (CCCEH) of Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health found that prenatal exposure to the commonly used pesticide chlorpyrifos adversely affects fetal development, according to Ascribe. The researchers examined 250 non-smoking African American and Dominican women in the New York City area for prenatal exposure to chlorpyrifos by measuring levels of the pesticide in the umbilical cord of the newborn. The results associated chlorpyrifos presence with decreased birth weight and birth length for both African Americans and Dominicans.

Chlorpyrifos, an organophosphate, was recently phased out for residential uses. However, according to CCCEH director Dr. Frederica Perera, "Until recently, chlorpyrifos was one of the most heavily applied pesticide throughout New York State and Manhattan in recent years." The research team will continue to examine the newborns as they grow older in order to examine the effects of the birth outcomes.

A 1996 study of children exposed to chlorpyrifos in utero found that extensive and unusual patterns of birth defects, including brain, nervous system, eyes, ears, palate, teeth, heart, feet, nipples, and genitalia. Published literature and EPA documents contain reports that identify similarities in defects found in test animals and children exposed to chlorpyrifos.

This chemical poses risks not only to fetuses, but to anyone who comes in contact with it. In 1997, EPA Office of Pesticide Programs', Health Effects Division reported that chlorpyrifos is one of the leading causes of acute insecticide poisoning incidents in the U.S. One U.S. News & World Report investigation, "The stuff in the backyard shed," (November 8, 1999, page 64-68) reports that since 1992, Dow AgroSciences and predecessor manufacturers have sent approximately 7,000 reports of chlorpyrifos-induced reactions to EPA. The agency, according to the report, suspects chlorpyrifos in 17,771 incidents reported to the U.S. Poison Control Centers between 1993 -96.

The complete study and findings will be published in the February 2003 issue of Environmental Health Perspectives.

For more information, please see Beyond Pesticides' chlorpyrifos fact sheet, or read up on alternatives to chlorpyrifos.