Pesticide Risk to Babies Underestimated: Study
They're up to 130 times more sensitive than adults, researchers warn
By Robert Preidt
Thursday, March 2, 2006
THURSDAY, March 2 (HealthDay News) -- Newborns have far greater variability in
susceptibility to pesticides than previously believed, U.S. researchers report.
They found that some newborns may be 26 to 50 times more susceptible to certain
organophosphate pesticides than other newborns, and 65 to 130 times more
sensitive than some adults.
The study "raises the question of whether current standards for safe levels of
pesticide exposure are sufficiently protective of a vulnerable population,"
co-lead author Nina Holland, a University of California, Berkeley adjunct
professor of environmental health sciences, said in a prepared statement.
"Based on our study, I feel that more research is urgently needed to establish
whether the standards need to be re-evaluated," Holland said.
The study appears in the March 2 issue of the journal Pharmacogenetics and
Along with researchers at the University of Washington, Holland's team studied
130 Hispanic women and their newborns living in California's Salinas Valley, an
agricultural area where almost 200,000 pounds of the organophosphate pesticides
diazinon and chlorpyrifos are used each year.
Current U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) guidelines for pesticides
require an tenfold extra safety factor to protect children compared with adults
if there are gaps in information about the children's susceptibility. The EPA
can select a lower safety factor if the agency believes there's enough
"People have this remarkable difference in enzymes that defend their health from
pesticide exposure," Holland said. "In developing regulatory standards for safe
levels of exposure, we need to protect the most sensitive in a population,
particularly because children and unborn fetuses are involved."