Courtesy of AFP
When pregnant women are exposed to moderate levels of chlorpyrifos, or CPF, their children may experience lasting changes in brain structure linked to lower intelligence. A study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences examined New York City pregnant mothers who were tested for exposure to CPF, which is widely used for pest control in farms and public spaces.
The women in the study, which included 369 subjects total, took part prior to 2001 when CPF was banned from household use in the United States, though the chemical continues to be used worldwide in agriculture. Researchers compared 20 children -- age five to 11 -- whose mothers tested highest for levels of CPF and found "significant abnormalities" in brain structure compared to 20 children whose mothers showed lower exposures. However, all the women in the study were exposed at routine levels below the US established thresholds for acute exposure, indicating that even low to moderate exposure could pose hefty risks to a child's brain development.