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> DDT Exposure Linked to Developmental Delays in Fetuses

Association of in Utero Organophosphate Pesticide Exposure and Fetal Growth and Length of Gestation in an Agricultural Population

Brenda Eskenazi,1 Kim Harley,1 Asa Bradman,1 Erin Weltzien,1 Nicholas P. Jewell,1 Dana B. Barr,2 Clement E. Furlong,3 and Nina T. Holland1

1Center for Children’s Environmental Health Research, School of Public Health, University of California Berkeley, Berkeley, California, USA; 2National Center for Environmental Health, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, Georgia, USA; 3Department of Genome Sciences and Medicine, Division of Medical Genetics, University of Washington Seattle, Seattle, Washington, USA


Although pesticide use is widespread, little is known about potential adverse health effects of in utero exposure. We investigated the effects of organophosphate pesticide exposure during pregnancy on fetal growth and gestational duration in a cohort of low-income, Latina women living in an agricultural community in the Salinas Valley, California.

We measured nonspecific metabolites of organophosphate pesticides (dimethyl and diethyl phosphates) and metabolites specific to malathion (malathion dicarboxylic acid) , chlorpyrifos [O,O-diethyl O-(3,5,6-trichloro-2-pyridinyl) phosphoro-thioate], and parathion (4-nitrophenol) in maternal urine collected twice during pregnancy.

We also measured levels of cholinesterase in whole blood and butyryl cholinesterase in plasma in maternal and umbilical cord blood. We failed to demonstrate an adverse relationship between fetal growth and any measure of in utero organophosphate pesticide exposure.

In fact, we found increases in body length and head circumference associated with some exposure measures. However, we did find decreases in gestational duration associated with two measures of in utero pesticide exposure: urinary dimethyl phosphate metabolites [ßadjusted = -0.41 weeks per log10 unit increase ; 95% confidence interval (CI) , 0.75-0.02 ; p = 0.02], which reflect exposure to dimethyl organophosphate compounds such as malathion, and umbilical cord cholinesterase (ßadjusted = 0.34 weeks per unit increase ; 95% CI, 0.13-0.55 ; p = 0.001) .

Shortened gestational duration was most clearly related to increasing exposure levels in the latter part of pregnancy. These associations with gestational age may be biologically plausible given that organophosphate pesticides depress cholinesterase and acetylcholine stimulates contraction of the uterus.

However, despite these observed associations, the rate of preterm delivery in this population (6.4%) was lower than in a U.S. reference population.

Key words: , , , , , , , , . Environ Health Perspect 112:1116-1124 (2004) . doi:10.1289/ehp.6789 available via [Online 11 March 2004]

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[Source: Environmental Health Perspectives]


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