Pesticide Additive Harms Children's Mental Development

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2011-02-10 10:47

A common pesticide additive called piperonyl butoxide, which is found in common household insecticides, has been associated with an increased risk of delayed mental development in young children. Piperonyl butoxide is also an agent used in medications used to treat children who have scabies and lice.

Additive’s impact on mental development is a concern

Piperonyl butoxide is a synergist, which means it increases the potency of the insecticides to which it is added. Most often those insecticides include pyrethrin, pyrethroid, and carbamate.

In a new study, Megan Horton, PhD, of Columbia’s Mailman School of Public Health in New York City, and her colleagues evaluated data from nearly 350 children who, along with their mothers, were participating in the Columbia Center for Children’s Environmental Health Mothers and Newborns study.

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The researchers measured levels of piperonyl butoxide and permethrin in personal air they collected from 348 Dominican and black women during their pregnancies. They also gathered exposure level information to permethrin from the women’s maternal and umbilical cord plasma.

After the researchers made adjustments for a variety of factors, including prenatal exposure to tobacco smoke, they found that children who had the greatest level of prenatal exposure to piperonyl butoxide had a more than threefold increased risk of delayed mental development at three years of age.

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