Long-term Neurobehavioral Health Effects of Methyl Parathion Exposure in Children in Mississippi and Ohio

Environ Health Perspect. 2004 Jan;112(1):46-51. doi: 10.1289/ehp.6430.


Methyl parathion (MP), an organophosphate pesticide licensed only for agricultural uses, was sprayed illegally for pest control in Mississippi and Ohio residences. To evaluate the association between MP exposure and neurobehavioral development, we assessed children 6 years or younger at the time of the spraying and local comparison groups of unexposed children using the Pediatric Environmental Neurobehavioral Test Battery (PENTB). The PENTB is composed of informant-based procedures (parent interview and questionnaires) and performance-based procedures (neurobehavioral tests for children 4 years or older) that evaluate cognitive, motor, sensory, and affect domains essential to neurobehavioral assessment. Children were classified as exposed or unexposed on the basis of urinary para-nitrophenol levels and environmental wipe samples for MP. Exposed children had more difficulties with tasks involving short-term memory and attention. Additionally, parents of exposed children reported that their children had more behavioral and motor skill problems than did parents of unexposed children. However, these effects were not consistently seen at both sites. There were no differences between exposed and unexposed children in tests for general intelligence, the integration of visual and motor skills, and multistep processing. Our findings suggest that MP might be associated with subtle changes to short-term memory and attention and contribute to problems with motor skills and some behaviors, but the results of the study are not conclusive.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Attention
  • Child Behavior Disorders / chemically induced*
  • Child Development
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cognition Disorders / diagnosis*
  • Cohort Studies
  • Environmental Exposure*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Insecticides / poisoning*
  • Male
  • Memory Disorders / chemically induced*
  • Mental Processes
  • Methyl Parathion / poisoning*
  • Mississippi
  • Motor Skills Disorders / chemically induced
  • Ohio


  • Insecticides
  • Methyl Parathion