Prenatal exposure to organophosphate pesticides and reciprocal social behavior in childhood

Environ Int. 2014 Sep;70:125-31. doi: 10.1016/j.envint.2014.05.011. Epub 2014 Jun 13.


Prenatal exposure to organophosphate pesticides (OPs) has been associated with adverse neurodevelopmental outcomes in childhood, including low IQ, pervasive developmental disorder (PDD), attention problems and ADHD. Many of these disorders involve impairments in social functioning. Thus, we investigated the relationship between biomarkers of prenatal OP exposure and impaired reciprocal social behavior in childhood, as measured by the Social Responsiveness Scale (SRS). Using a multi-ethnic urban prospective cohort of mother-infant pairs in New York City recruited between 1998 and 2002 (n=404) we examined the relation between third trimester maternal urinary levels of dialkylphosphate (ΣDAP) OP metabolites and SRS scores among 136 children who returned for the 7-9year visit. Overall, there was no association between OPs and SRS scores, although in multivariate adjusted models, associations were heterogeneous by race and by sex. Among blacks, each 10-fold increase in total diethylphosphates (ΣDEP) was associated with poorer social responsiveness (β=5.1 points, 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.8, 9.4). There was no association among whites or Hispanics, or for total ΣDAP or total dimethylphosphate (ΣDMP) biomarker levels. Additionally, stratum-specific models supported a stronger negative association among boys for ΣDEPs (β=3.5 points, 95% CI 0.2, 6.8), with no notable association among girls. Our results support an association of prenatal OP exposure with deficits in social functioning among blacks and among boys, although this may be in part reflective of differences in exposure patterns.

Keywords: Environmental exposures; Neurodevelopment; Organophosphate pesticides; Social Responsiveness Scale.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Biomarkers / urine
  • Child
  • Child Behavior* / ethnology
  • Child, Preschool
  • Female
  • Hispanic or Latino
  • Humans
  • Male
  • New York City / epidemiology
  • New York City / ethnology
  • Organophosphates / toxicity*
  • Organophosphates / urine
  • Pesticides / toxicity*
  • Pesticides / urine
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Trimester, Third / urine
  • Prenatal Exposure Delayed Effects / epidemiology
  • Prenatal Exposure Delayed Effects / ethnology
  • Prenatal Exposure Delayed Effects / psychology*
  • Prenatal Exposure Delayed Effects / urine
  • Prospective Studies
  • Social Behavior*


  • Biomarkers
  • Organophosphates
  • Pesticides