The Effect of Pesticides on Child Development: New Study

crop dusting
Photo by Ken Hammond (USDA)

Researchers are studying the relationship between the gene paraoxonase 1 (PON1) and the effect of pesticides on the body.  They have already established that a increased level of organophosphate (OP) pesticides in the body are related to poorer mental development in two year olds whose mothers were exposed to the chemical. This study, published in Environmental Health Perspectives is aimed at determining whether scientists can use PON1 as a marker to measure whether child development has been hindered by pesticide exposure.  Additional research is necessary to determine whether this gene is related to the way that pesticides affect pregnant mothers and whether babies are affected in utero.

Pesticides are known to have an especially strong impact on children.  According to the Children’s Environmental Health Centers (part of the EPA): “Research has shown that children are not ‘little adults’  – they have different exposures, different susceptibilities and sensitivities, and different outcomes when exposed to substances in the environment.  Because children are still developing, the timing of an exposure to chemicals such as pesticides in terms of life stage can be critical in determining the effects.  Children also are exposed differently than adults – they are closer to the ground, young children are crawlers and toddlers and tend to pick things up and put them in their mouths.  In addition, children also have a higher surface to volume ratio than adults, so any exposure may affect them proportionately more.