Prenatal exposures to pesticides may increase the risk of neurological disease later in life

Substantial evidence gathered over the past half century has shown that environmental exposures in early life can alter patterns of childhood development, and influence life-long health and risk of disease and dysfunction. Among the chemical exposures identified as potentially harmful to early development are: cigarette smoking during pregnancy, ionizing radiation, and insecticides. Patterns of illness have changed substantially in the past century among children in the United States and other industrial nations. Today the major illnesses confronting children in the United States include a number of psychosocial and behavioral conditions. Neurodevelopmental disorders, including learning disabilities, dyslexia, mental retardation, attention deficit disorder, and autism – occurrence is more prevalent than previously thought, affecting 5 percent to 10 percent of the 4 million children born in the United States annually. Beyond childhood, incidence rates of chronic neurodegenerative diseases of adult life such as Parkinson’s disease and dementia have increased markedly. These trends raise the possibility that exposures in early life act as triggers of later illness, perhaps by reducing the numbers of cells in essential regions of the brain to below the level needed to maintain function in the face of advancing age. Prenatal and childhood exposures to pesticides have emerged as a significant risk factor explaining impacts on brain structure and health that can increase the risk of neurological disease later in life.

Philip J. Landrigan & Charles M. Benbrook (2006) Impacts of the Food Quality Protection Act on
Children’s Exposures to Pesticides. Symposium on Opportunities and Initiatives to Minimize
Children’s Exposures to Pesticides. AAAS 2006 Annual Meeting, St. Louis, Missouri (attached)

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