Organophosphate pesticide exposure and neurodevelopment in young Mexican-American children

Environ Health Perspect. 2007 May;115(5):792-8. doi: 10.1289/ehp.9828. Epub 2007 Jan 4.


Background: Organophosphate (OP) pesticides are widely used in agriculture and homes. Animal studies suggest that even moderate doses are neurodevelopmental toxicants, but there are few studies in humans.

Objectives: We investigated the relationship of prenatal and child OP urinary metabolite levels with children's neurodevelopment.

Methods: Participating children were from a longitudinal birth cohort of primarily Latino farm-worker families in California. We measured six nonspecific dialkylphosphate (DAP) metabolites in maternal and child urine as well as metabolites specific to malathion (MDA) and chlorpyrifos (TCPy) in maternal urine. We examined their association with children's performance at 6 (n = 396), 12 (n = 395), and 24 (n = 372) months of age on the Bayley Scales of Infant Development [Mental Development (MDI) and Psychomotor Development (PDI) Indices] and mother's report on the Child Behavior Checklist (CBCL) (n = 356).

Results: Generally, pregnancy DAP levels were negatively associated with MDI, but child measures were positively associated. At 24 months of age, these associations reached statistical significance [per 10-fold increase in prenatal DAPs: beta = -3.5 points; 95% confidence interval (CI), -6.6 to -0.5; child DAPs: beta = 2.4 points; 95% CI, 0.5 to 4.2]. Neither prenatal nor child DAPs were associated with PDI or CBCL attention problems, but both prenatal and postnatal DAPs were associated with risk of pervasive developmental disorder [per 10-fold increase in prenatal DAPs: odds ratio (OR) = 2.3, p = 0.05; child DAPs OR = 1.7, p = 0.04]. MDA and TCPy were not associated with any outcome.

Conclusions: We report adverse associations of prenatal DAPs with mental development and pervasive developmental problems at 24 months of age. Results should be interpreted with caution given the observed positive relationship with postnatal DAPs.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Agriculture
  • Attention / drug effects*
  • Child Development / drug effects*
  • Cognition / drug effects*
  • Cohort Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Male
  • Mexican Americans
  • Occupational Exposure / adverse effects*
  • Organophosphates / toxicity*
  • Organophosphates / urine
  • Pesticides / toxicity*
  • Pesticides / urine
  • Psychomotor Disorders / chemically induced*


  • Organophosphates
  • Pesticides