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Another study has linked childhood behavioral problems to pesticide exposure, this time to pyrethroid insecticide exposure. Pyrethroids are synthetic pesticides (insecticides) that are increasingly used for personal use (mosquito repellents and treatments for head lice, scabies), on pets (for fleas), home use (e.g., Raid pesticides), and in agriculture.

Until recently, they have been viewed as "safer" and posing fewer risks to human health than older pesticides, but a growing body of research is finding that pyrethroid pesticides share similar neurocognitive health effects as older pesticides. Neurocognitive refers to the neural processes of the brain and central nervous system involved in cognitive functioning. Pyrethroids get into people various ways: through inhalation, absorbed through the skin, and ingested in food. And yes, they cross the placenta (they have been detected in the placental cord immediately after birth).

In this study, researchers looked at levels of pyrethroid metabolites (the breakdown products from pyrethroids) in the mother's urine during early pregnancy and in the child's urine when the child was 6 years of age. They looked at how social a child is (altruism), whether the child is inhibited and has difficulty sharing problems or asking for help (internalizing behaviors), as well as how defiant or disruptive a child is (externalizing behaviors, which can include hyperactivity and oppositionality).

Pyrethroids (the metabolites) were regularly detected in both mothers and children participating in the study. Internalizing disorders were associated with high levels of one pyrethroid metabolite (cis-DCCA, a breakdown product of permethrin, cypermethrin, and clyfluthrin) in pregnant mothers’ urine. Childhood exposure to pyrethroids (as measured in the child's urine) was linked to externalizing disordersResearchers hypothesized that the behavioral difficulties were due to changes in the child’s brain. The authors stated: “The current study suggests that exposure to certain pyrethroids at the low environmental doses encountered by the general public may be associated with behavioural disorders in children.” "Internalizing behaviors are inhibited and overcontrolled in nature, while children with

Other studies have also found negative health effects on children from pyrethroids -  for example, an association between synthetic pyrethroid exposure and ADHD hyperactivity and impulsivity. Recent research found that living near a farm field where pyrethroids are applied during a mother’s third trimester or just before conception corresponds with a greatly increased risk of having a child with autism spectrum disorder.

What can one do? Main one: try to avoid using and ingesting (in food) synthetic pyrethroids. This means avoid routine "pesticide treatments" of your home and garden, and instead use least-toxic methods to control pests around the home and garden (such as baits for insects, caulk holes, etc.). Try viewing weeds in the lawn as native wildflowers and the flowers as bee habitats (yes, you'll also be saving bees!). Eat as many organic foods (especially fruits and vegetables) as possible - this will lower the amount of pesticides in your body. This is because synthetic pyrethroids are not allowed in organic farming.  The good news is that pyrethroid pesticides leave the body within days, so with some lifestyle changes you can really lower your pesticide levels.

From Medscape:  'Safe' Insecticides Tied to Neurobehavioral Problems in Kids

Prenatal and childhood exposure to pyrethroid insecticides may adversely affect neurobehavioral development in children up to age 6 years, new research shows. A group of French researchers led by Jean-François Viel, MD, PhD, and Prof Andreas G. Franke, MD, both of the University of Mainz, Germany, investigated the associations between exposure to pyrethroid insecticides and behavioral skills in 6-year-olds.

Using a longitudinal design, the researchers assessed pyrethroid exposure in children prenatally and at age 6 years. They found that in 6-year-old children, increased prenatal concentrations of the cis-dimethylcyclopropane carbolic acid metabolite were associated with internalizing difficulties. A positive association was also found between the presence of childhood 3-phenoxybenzoic acid (3-PBA) and externalizing difficulties.

The researchers used a longitudinal design to assess the relationship between prenatal and childhood pyrethroid concentrations, using data from the French PELAGIE mother-child study. That study enrolled 3421 pregnant women from Brittany, France, between 2002 and 2006. Of this cohort, 287 randomly selected mothers agreed to participate in neuropsychological follow-up. Psychologists who were blinded to pyrethroid exposure levels in the study participants conducted neurodevelopmental assessments and maternal interviews to assess the home environment. They also collected children's urine samples as well as dust samples.

Children exposed to insecticides (pesticides) at home have an increased risk of developing leukemia or lymphoma, a new review finds.The analysis, of 16 studies done since the 1990s, found that children exposed to indoor insecticides had an elevated risk of developing the blood cancers. There was also a weaker link between exposure to weed killers and the risk of leukemia. There is also evidence from studies linking pesticides with neurological consequences, such as lower IQ and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Note: insecticides and weed-killers (herbicides) are both pesticides. The article also gives some non-chemical approaches to treating pests with non-chemical means. From CNN:

Report: Pesticide exposure linked to childhood cancer and lower IQ

Pesticide use in homes may increase the risk of children developing leukemia or lymphoma, a new report suggests. Researchers combined data from 16 earlier studies that had compared pesticide exposure between children who developed leukemia or lymphoma and those who did not. These studies estimated the level of insecticides and herbicides both inside the home and in the yard and outdoor residential space.

The researchers concluded that children who had been exposed to insecticides indoors were 47% more likely to have leukemia and 43% more likely to have lymphoma. Although leukemia and lymphoma are rare -- leukemia affects about five in 100,000 children in the United States -- they are among the common types of childhood cancers. "Childhood cancers are increasing year by year in this country....  ...continue reading "Home Pesticide Use Linked to Childhood Cancer"

Two studies showing detrimental effects on children from pyrethroids in 2 weeks! The June 3 post was about research linking household pyrethroid exposure to ADHD in children and young teens. The second study found that low level childhood exposures to pyrethroid insecticides was linked to lower scores on an IQ test (Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children - verbal comprehension and working memory) in 6 year old children. The researchers viewed this as evidence that pyrethroid insecticides may "negatively affect neurocognitive development".

Bottom line: even though pyrethroid pesticides are considered safer than many other pesticides, they still can have undesirable effects on humans, especially developing children. To be safe, use least toxic pest control that uses non-toxic, safe "alternative" or "natural" methods rather than just "spraying a chemical". Another possibility is looking for "organic pest control" or"least-toxic Integrated Pest Management" (IPM) that looks to deal with pest problems with non-toxic methods (which may include sealing holes, heat, caulking, trapping, using sticky traps, and even vacuuming up insects). From Science Daily:

Impact of insecticides on the cognitive development of 6-year-old children

Researchers have provided new evidence of neurotoxicity in humans from pyrethroid insecticides, which are found in a wide variety of products and uses. An increase in the urinary levels of two pyrethroid metabolites (3-PBA and cis-DBCA) in children is associated with a significant decrease in their cognitive performances , particularly verbal comprehension and working memory. This study was carried out on nearly 300 mother and child pairs from the PELAGIE cohort (Brittany).

Pyrethroids constitute a family of insecticides widely used in a variety of sectors: agriculture (various crops), veterinary (antiparasitics) and domestic (lice shampoo, mosquito products). Their mode of action involves blocking neurotransmission in insects, leading to paralysis. Because of their efficacy and relative safety for humans and mammals, they have replaced older compounds (organochlorides, organophosphates, carbamate) considered more toxic.

Exposure of children to pyrethroids is common. It is different to adult exposure, due to the closer proximity of children to ground-level dust (which stores pollutants), more frequent hand-to-mouth contact, lice shampoos, etc. In children, pyrethroids are mainly absorbed via the digestive system, but are also absorbed through the skin. They are rapidly metabolised in the liver, and mainly eliminated in the urine as metabolites within 48 hours.

Pregnancy is also an important period of life for the future health of the child. For this reason, the researchers studied the PELAGIE mother-child cohort established between 2002 and 2006, which monitors 3,500 mother-child pairs. This cohort simultaneously considers exposure to pyrethroid insecticides during fetal life and childhood. A total of 287 women, randomly selected from the PELAGIE cohort and contacted successfully on their child's sixth birthday, agreed to participate in this study.

Two psychologists visited them at home. One assessed the child's neurocognitive performances using the WISC scale (verbal comprehension index, VCI, and working memory index, WMI). The other psychologist characterised the family environment and stimuli that might have had a role on the child's intellectual development, collected a urine sample from the child, and collected dust samplesExposure to pyrethroid insecticides was estimated by measuring levels of five metabolites (3-PBA, 4-F-3-PBA, cis-DCCA, trans-DCCA and cis-DBCA) in urine from the mother (collected between the 6th and 19th weeks of pregnancy) and from the child (collected on his/her 6th birthday).

Results show that an increase in children's urinary levels of two metabolites (3 PBA and cis-DBCA) was associated with a significant decrease in cognitive performances, whereas no association was observed for the other three metabolites (4-F-3-PBA, cis-DCCA and trans-DCCA). With respect to metabolite concentrations during pregnancy, there was no demonstrable association with neurocognitive scores.

Well DUH, of course eating organic foods lowers pesticide exposures. And yes, it can be measured in your body. So, as previous studies have shown, replacing regular fruits and vegetables (conventionally grown) with organic fruits and vegetables will lower your exposure to pesticides and the levels in your body. And why is this important? Research shows health effects from pesticides, so it is healthier for you to lower your pesticide exposures - whether from eating food, or from your house and your yard (breathing it in, getting it on skin).From Science Daily:

Organic food reduces pesticide exposure

While health-conscious individuals understand the benefits of eating fresh fruits and veggies, they may not be aware of the amount of pesticides they could be ingesting along with their vitamin C and fiber. A new study to be published in the Feb. 5 edition of Environmental Health Perspectives is among the first to predict a person's pesticide exposure based on information about their usual diet.

Curl and her colleagues analyzed the dietary exposure of nearly 4,500 people from six U.S. cities to organophosphates (OPs), the most common insecticides used on conventionally grown produce in the United States. OP pesticides are linked to a number of detrimental health effects, particularly among agricultural workers who are regularly exposed to the chemicals.

Results showed that among individuals eating similar amounts of fruits and vegetables, those who reported eating organic produce had significantly lower OP pesticide exposures than those consuming conventionally grown produce. In addition, consuming those conventionally grown foods typically treated with more of these pesticides during production, including apples, nectarines and peaches, was associated with significantly higher levels of exposure. "For most Americans, diet is the primary source of OP pesticide exposure," said Curl "The study suggests that by eating organically grown versions of those foods highest in pesticide residues, we can make a measurable difference in the levels of pesticides in our bodies."

The researchers were able to predict each participant's exposure to OP pesticides based on the amount and type of produce each participant typically ate and the U.S. Department of Agriculture's measurements of pesticide residue levels on those foods. The researchers then compared these predictions to pesticide metabolite levels measured in urine samples from a subset of 720 of these people.

"The next step is to use these exposure predictions to examine the relationship between dietary exposure to pesticides and health outcomes, including neurological and cognitive endpoints. We'll be able to do that in this same population of nearly 4,500 people," she said.

One way people can reduce their pesticide exposure, said Curl, is to eat organic versions of those foods that are listed on the Environmental Working Group's "Dirty Dozen" list, which ranks fruits and vegetables according to pesticide residue level.