New York, March 29, 2004 (ENS): A new study
finds the federal ban on two insecticides has resulted
in a significant reduction in their impact on newborns'
birth weight and length.
The study is the first to demonstrate the benefits of
the ban during pregnancy in human subjects.
"This study is good news for our nation's children,"
said Dr. Frederica Perera, director of the Center and
the study team leader. "The evidence that birth
weight increased following the Environmental Protection
Agency's regulatory action implies important benefits
for the children's future health and development. At
the same time, the results highlight the need to address
continuing prenatal exposures to these and other toxic
The study, released by the Columbia Center for Children's
Environmental Health, measured the impact on fetal growth
of two insecticides - chlorpyrifos and diazinon - whose
use in households was banned by the federal government
starting in 2000.
Chlorpyrifos was the most frequently used residential
insecticide in New York City prior to the ban. Both
compounds are still widely used in agriculture and continue
to be found in the food supply.
The insecticides had been among the most commonly used
agents for residential pest control.
Researchers measured the levels of the two insecticides
in blood drawn from the umbilical cords after delivery,
both before and after the ban, and correlated those
levels with the babies' birth weight and length.
They found that prior to January 2001, newborns with
combined insecticide exposures in the highest 26th percentile
had birth weights averaging almost 200 grams - almost
half a pound - less than infants with no detectable
The researchers also noted a highly significant inverse
association between the combined exposures and newborn
But when they looked at the relationship between insecticide
exposures and fetal growth after January 2001, the exposure
levels had been reduced, and the impact on weight and
length was no longer apparent.
"The differences in fetal growth seen here are
comparable to the differences between babies whose mothers
smoke during pregnancy and babies whose mothers do not,"
said Dr. Robin Whyatt, a Columbia University researcher
and principal author of the study. "The fact that
the ban was associated with such an immediate change
in birth weight and length provides considerable evidence
of cause and effect."