In utero pesticide exposure and childhood morbidity

Environ Res. 2007 Jan;103(1):79-86. doi: 10.1016/j.envres.2006.09.001. Epub 2006 Nov 7.


In humans, immune development begins early in embryonic life and continues throughout the early postnatal period. Although a number of pesticides have been observed to induce developmental immunotoxicity in mice, few human studies have examined the long term effects of in utero pesticide exposure on childhood morbidity. Empirical evidence suggests that the vulnerable period for toxic insults to the developing immune system extends from early gestation to adolescence in humans and animals. Using data from the Ontario Farm Family Health Study, we examined the relationship between farm couple exposures to pesticides during pregnancy and subsequent health outcomes in their offspring, including: persistent cough or bronchitis, asthma, and allergies or hayfever. No strong associations between pesticide exposures during pregnancy and persistent cough or bronchitis, or asthma were found. There was suggestive evidence that allergies and hayfever appeared to be more common in offspring, especially male offspring, exposed to certain specific pesticides during the period of pregnancy. Nevertheless, given the indirect indicators of pesticide exposure used in this study, and the scarcity of human studies on in utero exposure to pesticides and the development of allergies and other child health outcomes, these findings serve primarily to generate hypotheses for future research.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Asthma / epidemiology
  • Asthma / etiology
  • Bronchitis / epidemiology
  • Bronchitis / etiology
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cough / epidemiology
  • Cough / etiology
  • Environmental Pollutants / toxicity*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hypersensitivity / epidemiology
  • Hypersensitivity / etiology*
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Male
  • Maternal Exposure*
  • Morbidity
  • Ontario / epidemiology
  • Pesticides / toxicity*
  • Pregnancy


  • Environmental Pollutants
  • Pesticides