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Neurotoxic Pesticide Chlorpyrifos Also Damages Heart and Liver
To test for effects of the chemical outside the nervous system, researchers at Duke University in Durham, N.C., injected rats daily with 1, 2, or 5 milligrams of chlorpyrifos per kilogram of body weight for 4 consecutive days. Some animals received the injections while they were pregnant, and their offspring were then studied for possible effects. Other animals were exposed during the first or second week of life. The researchers looked for effects shortly after exposure and when the animals were juveniles and adults.
While the doses of chlorpyrifos were too low to cause immediate symptoms, rats exposed in utero or during the first week after birth later showed subtle biochemical abnormalities. Chlorpyrifos exposure in older animals seldom had an effect, suggesting that a “window of vulnerability” closes soon after birth, say Theodore Slotkin, PhD, and his colleagues at Duke.
The abnormalities affect adenylyl cyclase signaling, a process by which cells communicate, and in some experiments, effects were evident only in male rats. Because adenylyl cyclase signaling modifies insulin production, glucose metabolism, and heart rate, the findings imply that early exposure to chlorpyrifos and other organophosphates could increase risks for cardiovascular and metabolic disorders that typically arise later in life, Dr. Slotkin argues.