A new study performed by scientists from the University of California, Berkeley, shows a range of developmental problems in children born to women who work in pesticide-treated fields. The research study has been conducted for 15 years in Salinas, CA. Fields are active year-round in Salinas, so workers stay put there. The scientists have teamed with growers and workers to explore the risks and to try to mitigate workers’ exposure to potentially harmful chemicals.
At different times over the years, the scientists have studied many hundreds of pregnant women and many hundreds of their children. They collected over 150,000 biological samples. Chemicals looked at have included fumigants, fungicides, bisphenol A and flame retardants.
When the research program was launched, there were a half-million pounds of organophosphate insecticides sprayed in the Salinas Valley every year.
The chemicals can pass through the placenta and enter the babies’ bloodstream and eventually, their brains. Prenatal exposure to even tiny amounts of organophosphates can have significant impact on the brain, the study shows. Higher exposure lead to increased risk for neurodevelopmental problems. At six months, exposed children were more likely to have poorer reflexes. At 2 years old, they were at higher risk for pervasive development disorder, a condition like Asberger’s. At 5 they were more likely to be hyperactive and have attention deficits. At 7 they scored lower on IQ tests by an average of seven points. Studies done on inner-city children exposed to pesticides show nearly identical findings.
Associations between in utero exposure and birth defects and childhood cancers have also been identified.
The whole house filters and kitchen filters sold at www.friendsofwater.com filter out both organic and chemical contaminants. While less is known about the health risks of lower levels of pesticides, we suggest it makes good sense to eliminate exposure to toxins whenever and wherever you can.
For a complete story, pick up a copy of the March 31, 2014 issue of The Nation.