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Health & Pregnancy

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Prenatal Pesticide Exposure May Harm Kids' Brains

Common Crop Pesticide Chlorpyrifos May Be Linked With Structural Changes in Developing Brain, Experts Find

Chlorpyrifos and the Food Supply

In 2007, the Natural Resources Defense Council petitioned the EPA to cancel all agricultural registrations for the pesticide.The EPA is reviewing the role of chlorpyrifos in agriculture.

Symptoms of poisoning from the pesticide include nausea, dizziness, confusion, and sometimes loss of respiratory muscle control and death, according to the NRDC.

'Prenatal Pesticide Exposure: Two Perspectives

The new research finding is concerning, says Sonya Lunder, MPH, senior analyst at the Environmental Working Group. EWG supports a ban on the pesticide.

"Once you have changed the way the brain is born, and the structure, we are talking about things you can't offset with a good education or a good diet," she tells WebMD.

Meanwhile, industry groups say the pesticide should not be banned.

On a web page, "Chlorpyrifos Protects," Dow AgroSciences, its manufacturer, says: "Growers clearly need a trusted, well-established product to protect a wide range of crops from a diverse spectrum of damaging pests."

Since the pesticide was registered by the EPA in 1965, its use has become common in more than 50 crops, according to Dow. Among them are citrus fruits, apples, soybeans, sweet corn, and peanuts.

Research offers little support for claims that prenatal exposure could lead to reduced IQ scores, according to Dow.

Advice for Pregnant Women

Rauh advises women who are pregnant to avoid farming jobs.

Wash produce well before eating, she says. Buying organic produce is a good idea, she says, though not always practical. "It's a very expensive way to go and I think is out of reach of the average person," Rauh says.

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