Cognitive, visual, and motor development of 7-month-old Guadeloupean infants exposed to chlordecone

Environ Res. 2012 Oct:118:79-85. doi: 10.1016/j.envres.2012.07.006. Epub 2012 Aug 19.


Background: The insecticide chlordecone was extensively used in the French West Indies to control banana root borer. Its persistence in soils has led to the widespread pollution of the environment, and human beings are still exposed to this chemical. Chlordecone has been shown to impair neurological and behavioural functions in rodents when exposed gestationally or neonatally.

Objectives: The aim of the study was to evaluate the impact of prenatal and postnatal exposure to chlordecone on the cognitive, visual, and motor development of 7-month-old infants from Guadeloupe.

Methods: Infants were tested at 7 months (n=153). Visual recognition memory and processing speed were assessed with the Fagan Tests of Infant Intelligence (FTII), visual acuity with the Teller Acuity Card, and fine motor development with the Brunet-Lezine. Samples of cord blood and breast milk at 3 months (n=88) were analyzed for chlordecone concentrations. Postnatal exposure was determined through breast feeding and frequency of contaminated food consumption by the infants.

Results: Cord chlordecone concentrations in tertiles were associated with reduced novelty preference on the FTII in the highly exposed group (β=-0.19, p=0.02). Postnatal exposure through contaminated food consumption was marginally related to reduced novelty preference (β=-0.14, p=0.07), and longer processing speed (β=0.16, p=0.07). Detectable levels of chlordecone in cord blood were associated with higher risk of obtaining low scores on the fine motor development scale (OR=1.25, p<0.01).

Conclusion: These results suggest that pre- and postnatal low chronic exposure to chlordecone is associated with negative effects on cognitive and motor development during infancy.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Chlordecone / toxicity*
  • Cognition / drug effects*
  • Environmental Exposure*
  • Guadeloupe
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Insecticides / toxicity*
  • Psychomotor Performance / drug effects*
  • Vision, Ocular / drug effects*


  • Insecticides
  • Chlordecone