Newborns benefit from bans on two insecticides

NEW YORK, 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 pesticides."

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 pesticide levels.

The researchers also noted a highly significant inverse association between the combined exposures and newborn birth length.

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."

http://www.ens-newswire.com/ens/mar2004/2004-03-29-09.asp



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