Pregnancy terms are shorter and babies are born smaller when the mother is exposed to organophosphates, a common pesticide, during pregnancy says new research published in the current edition of the journal Environmental Health Perspectives.
According to the study, titled "Associations of Prenatal Exposure to Organophosphate Pesticide Metabolites with Gestational Age and Birthweight," pregnant women exposed to high levels of organophosphates had babies that were an average 1/3 pound lighter than women who were only exposed to low levels of the toxin. And in addition to smaller babies, the women also delivered several days earlier than the less-exposed group. Despite the seemingly mild effects, the researchers suggest that there could be a major impact when spread out over millions of babies.
Study author, Dr. Bruce Lanphear, a clinician scientist at the Child & Family Research Institute at BC Children's Hospital in Vancouver, British Columbia, noted that for a population, it can lead to "dramatic increases in kids who are very small," and that could have profound effects on the premature rate.
Organophosphates represent a broad spectrum of pesticides of organic phosphorus-containing compounds that are classified as nerve agents. Early uses of organophosphates were as nerve toxin poisons in the development of weapons during World War II.
Malathion is one of the most common organophosphates and is routinely used in agricultural applications, landscaping and pest control programs. At least 40 organophosphate pesticides are currently registered for use in the U.S. amounting to more than 70 million pounds used annually. Recent research has also linked organophosphate exposure to lower IQs and behavioral issues for children.
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