Prenatal insecticide exposures and birth weight and length among an urban minority cohort

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From: Environmental Health Perspectives(Vol. 112, Issue 10)
Publisher: National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences
Document Type: Article
Length: 7,242 words

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We reported previously that insecticide exposures were widespread among minority women in New York City during pregnancy and that levels of the organophosphate chlorpyrifos in umbilical cord plasma were inversely associated with birth weight and length. Here we expand analyses to include additional insecticides (the organophosphate diazinon and the carbamate propoxur), a larger sample size (n = 314 mother-newborn pairs), and insecticide measurements in maternal personal air during pregnancy as well as in umbilical cord plasma at delivery. Controlling for potential confounders, we found no association between maternal personal air insecticide levels and birth weight, length, or head circumference. For each log unit increase in cord plasma chlorpyrifos levels, birth weight decreased by 42.6 g [95% confidence interval (CI), -81.8 to -3.8, p = 0.03] and birth length decreased by 0.24 cm (95% CI, -0.47 to -0.01, p = 0.04). Combined measures of (In)cord plasma chlorpyrifos and diazinon (adjusted for relative potency) were also inversely associated with birth weight and length (p < 0.05). Birth weight averaged 186.3 g less (95% CI, -375.2 to -45.5) among newborns with the highest compared with lowest 26% of exposure levels (p = 0.01). Further, the associations between birth weight and length and cord plasma chlorpyrifos and diazinon were highly significant (p [less than or equal to] 0.007) among newborns born before the 2000-2001 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's regulatory actions to phase out residential use of these insecticides. Among newborns born after January 2001, exposure levels were substantially lower, and no association with fetal growth was apparent (p > 0.8). The propoxur metabolite 2-isopropoxyphenol in cord plasma was inversely associated with birth length, a finding of borderline significance (p = 0.05) after controlling for chlorpyrifos and diazinon. Results indicate that prenatal chlorpyrifos exposures have impaired fetal growth among this minority cohort and that diazinon exposures may have contributed to the effects. Findings support recent regulatory action to phase out residential uses of the insecticides. Key words: birth length, birth weight, insecticides, minority, prenatal, residential, urban, women. doi: 10.1289/ehp.6641 available via[Online 22 March 2004]


Pesticide use appears to be widespread among minority populations residing in New York City (Berkowitz et al. 2003; Surgan et al. 2002; Whyatt et al. 2002, 2003). A 1997 study of pesticide use in New York State found that the heaviest application (in gallons and pounds) of legally registered pesticides by licensed applicators occurred not in the agricultural counties but in the boroughs of Manhattan and Brooklyn in New York City (Thier et al. 1998). Chlorpyrifos was the insecticide most heavily applied in New York City, and one of the insecticides most heavily used by pest control operators for the New York City Housing Authority (Landrigan et al. 1999; Thief et al. 1998). A more recent survey of pest control measures used by residents of public housing in New York State conducted during 2000-2001 by the New York State Attorney General's Office concluded that pest problems and pesticide use were related to housing density (Surgan et al. 2002). Specifically, 93%...

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Gale Document Number: GALE|A137505323