It may seem like a big leap, but pesticides don’t just hurt bugs; new research actually suggests they can lower an unborn child’s future IQ. It’s well known that high doses of organophosphate pesticides (OP) harm the brain. But the recent study is among the few that looks at how they affect a child’s ability to learn.
The study took place in California where pregnant farm-working mothers, mostly Latinas, were recruited from October 1999 to 2000. Researchers checked the mothers’ urine for evidence of exposure to the pesticide. After they gave birth, urine from their babies was examined when the children were 1, 2, 3.5 and 5 years old.
Three-hundred-twenty-nine of the child participants underwent IQ testing when they were 7 years old. The research team took into account the children’s scores at age 6 months and the mothers’ educational levels and intelligence.
Mothers with OP in their urine gave birth to children who scored low on the IQ test in the categories of memory, processing, verbal comprehension, reasoning and “Full Scale IQ.” The higher a mother’s level of pesticide had been, the lower her child’s IQ test score. On the other hand, the amount of pesticide in the children’s urine at ages 1 to 5 didn’t seem to affect their IQ scores as 7-year-olds.
The study points to the need for pregnant mothers to ensure they are not exposed to pesticides. You can do this by, if possible, eating organic foods and living away from non-organic farms. However, what’s most important when considering your child’s development after birth is to focus on factors that will promote her lifelong health and, consequently, build her brainpower too. For example, feed him lots of fresh fruits and vegetables and limit his junk food, make sure she gets plenty of exercise each day and have her take music lessons. Yes, music lessons. Turns out playing music gives the brain a boost.