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Pesticides Make Us Dumber

Pesticides Make Us Dumber

Ethonomic Indicator of the Day: 7 — The number of IQ points that children exposed to pesticides in utero fell behind other children.

From the department of “science proves the obvious”: exposure to neurotoxic pesticides in the womb results in children with lower IQs, according to a study from the University of California at Berkeley. Time to raid the organic fruits and vegetables section of Whole Foods.

UC Berkeley’s study focused on organophosphate exposure (a neurotoxic pesticide sprayed on food crops and used for pest control in apartments) among children in Salinas, an agriculture-heavy town in California. The results were disturbing: Children exposed to the most prenatal pesticides scored seven points lower on standardized intelligence tests compared with children who had the lowest pesticide exposure levels. Two similar studies from Mt. Sinai Medical Center and Columbia University (published in this month’s Environmental Health Perspectives) also found links between prenatal pesticide exposure and IQ. Exposure to organophosphates after birth had no repercussions on intelligence (but still: not good for you).

So what’s a freaked-out parent to do? Consumption of organic fruits and vegetables is a good starting point, but some people–farm workers, florists, gardeners, insecticide manufacturers, pesticide applicators–are likely to have increased exposure to organophosphates no matter what they do. And for pampered city dwellers, abstain from pesticide treatments on cockroach infestations and opt for more natural fixes.

The good news is that organophosphate pesticide use has dropped over 50% between 2001 and 2009, mostly because of–now very justified–health concerns. But the next big toxic pesticide will be revealed soon enough–so think twice before biting into that chemical-laden apple.

[Photo by ken mccown]

Reach Ariel Schwartz via Twitter or email.