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Updated on January 3, 2007

Two NYC Studies Emphasize Importance of IPM
(Beyond Pesticides, January 3, 2007) Two recent studies by researchers at the Columbia Center for Children’s Environmental Health (CCCEH), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other leading institutions offer strong evidence that use of Integrated Pest Management (IPM) techniques during pregnancy reduced risk of pesticide exposure and related developmental delays.

The first report, released by the American Academy of Pediatrics in its journal, Pediatrics, followed 254 children in New York City between 1998 and 2002. The study tracked cognitive and motor development at 12, 24 and 36 months of age. Researchers found children with the highest levels of chlorpyrifos in their umbilical chord plasma tended to score lower on mental development tests and experience more problems paying attention, with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, and pervasive developmental disorder by the age of three. Chlorpyrifos has been barred from sale for residential uses since 2001, although it is still used widely in agriculture.

Lead researcher Virginia Rauh, ScD, said, “These findings indicate that prenatal exposure to the insecticide chlorpyrifos not only increases the likelihood of developmental delay, but may have long-term consequences for social adjustment and academic achievement.” Robin Whyatt, DrPH, senior author on the study, said, “Prior to the ban, chlorpyrifos was one of the most widely used insecticides for residential pest control across the United Sates. Despite a recent regulatory ban on residential use of chlorpyrifos in the U.S., agricultural applications continue in the U.S. and abroad.”

The second study, published in Environmental Health Perspectives (Vol. 114 No. 11 ), tracked the effect of using integrated pest management (IPM) techniques, instead of chemical pest controls, around pregnant women and the subsequent levels of pesticides in umbilical chord plasma. Citing studies such as that by Dr. Rauh, researchers expressed a need for studies documenting the effectiveness of alternative pest controls reducing such risks to early childhood development.

According to the report, “The aim of this study was to assess the feasibility of reducing prenatal exposures to pests and insecticides through an IPM intervention that included professional cleaning, building repairs, sealing pest entry points, professional insecticide placement, and one-on-one education.” By monitoring “intervention” and “control” households, researchers were able to determine the effectiveness of these IPM techniques – the concluding evidence detecting reduced insecticide levels in blood samples collected at delivery from the control group. The researchers observed that, “This pilot intervention study demonstrates that IPM can have a significant effect on pest infestation levels and appears to reduce residential insecticide exposures during pregnancy . . . Success of IPM interventions has been attributed to simultaneous application of multiple nonchemical approaches to pest control, including education, repair, least-toxic exterminations, reinforcement, and repetition . . . we believe that this intervention protocol using IPM can be successfully adapted for use by individuals within households in this community to reduce pest infestation levels and residential pesticide exposure.”

Beyond Pesticides advocates for IPM in residential, commercial, and school settings as a way to reduce risk of pesticide exposure and increase effectiveness of pest control. For our fact sheet on IPM, click here. We also support increased testing on all chemical products released for sale, so that effects, like those seen in relation to chlorpyrifos, can be avoided. As Frederica Perera, DrPH, director of the CCCEH, noted, “[P]rotection of children’s health and development would be best served by thorough testing of chemicals before they are marketed."