More worrying research on the effects of boys’ brains –
A widely used pesticide – banned in homes but still commonly used on farms – appears to harm boys’ developing brains more than girls’, according to a new study of children in New York City.
In boys, exposure to chlorpyrifos in the womb was associated with lower scores on short-term memory tests compared with girls exposed to similar amounts.
The study is the first to find gender differences in how the insecticide harms prenatal development. Scientists say the finding adds to evidence that boys’ brains may be more vulnerable to some chemical exposures.
“This suggests that the harmful effects of chlorpyrifos are stronger among boys, which indicates that perhaps boys are more vulnerable to this type of exposure,” said Virginia Rauh, a perinatal epidemiologist at Columbia University and co-author of the study published in July.
Chlorpyrifos is an organophosphate insecticide, a powerful class of pesticide that has toxic effects on nervous systems. It was widely used in homes and yards to kill cockroaches and other insects, but in 2001 the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency banned its residential use because of health risks to children. Since then, levels inside U.S. homes have dropped, but residue remains in many homes. In addition, many developing countries still use the pesticide indoors.
Known by the Dow trade name Lorsban, chlorpyrifos is still sprayed on some crops, including fruit trees and vegetables, and also is used on golf courses and for mosquito control. About 10 million pounds of chlorpyrifos are applied to agricultural fields annually, according to the EPA.
“There’s mounting evidence now from epidemiological studies that prenatal exposure to organophosphate pesticides, and chlorpyrifos in particular, may be associated with detriments with IQ in children,” said Kim Harley, an environmental epidemiologist with the University of California, Berkeley who has studied effects of pesticide exposure on children in California farm towns. She was not involved in the New York City study.
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