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High Levels of Organophosphate Pesticides Found in Children
(Beyond Pesticides, February 17, 2004)
A recent study found five metabolites of organophosphate (OP) pesticides in over 50% of people examined. Alarmingly, children were found to contain significantly higher levels of OP metabolites, a grave concern considering their developing organ systems often make them more sensitive to toxic exposure. The study, "Concentrations of Dialkyl Phosphate Metabolites of Organophosphorus Pesticides in the U.S. Population" was published in the February 2004 edition of the peer-reviewed journal Environmental Health Perspectives.

Researchers collected 1,949 urine samples from U.S. residents 6-59 years of age during 1999 and 2000 as a part of the ongoing National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES). Each sample was examined for concentrations of five OP metabolites: dimethylphosphate (DMP), dimethylthiophosphate (DMTP), dimethyldithiophosphate (DMDTP), diethylphosphate (DEP), diethylthiophosphate (DETP), and diethyldithiophosphate (DEDTP). Each of the five metabolites tested for was found in over 50% of the sample, with the highest number of samples - 71% - containing the metabolite diethylphosphate (DEP).

The samples were classified into age, sex and racial/ethnic groups. The only significant difference across these categories was that concentrations of metabolites in children 6-11 years of age were consistently significantly higher than in adults and often higher than in adolescents.

In 2001, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found similar results after examining metabolites of organophosphates in American bodies, further showing the widespread exposure to these toxic chemicals that occurs in the United States. For a copy of their report, see the National Report on Human Exposure to Environmental Chemicals.

It is disturbing to note that while widespread exposure to organophosphates is continually documented, these pesticides pose a high risk to human health. Studies in animals show that even a single, low-level exposure to certain organophosphates during particular times of early brain development can cause permanent changes in brain chemistry, as well as changes in behavior, such as hyperactivity. This may mean that early childhood exposure can lead to lasting effects on learning, attention, and behavior, just like the environmental neurotoxin lead.

Organophosphates are considered to be the most likely pesticide to cause an acute poisoning. 63,000 reports were made to U.S. poison control centers between 1993 and 1996 about unintentional residential exposures to organophosphates - almost 25,000 involving children under 6.

TAKE ACTION: Let the EPA know you won’t stand to be poisoned by these highly toxic chemicals. Tell EPA Administrator Michael Leavitt to ban organophosphates, by email, phone: 202-564-4711, or fax: 202-501-1470.