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US Ban on Insecticides Linked to Beneficial Neonatal Outcomes

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) Mar 25 - A recent ban on the residential use of two insecticides seems to have had a beneficial effect on neonatal growth parameters, according to a report released in the current online issue of Environmental Health Perspectives. This study is the first to show the benefits of the ban during pregnancy in humans.

In 2000-2001, the federal government phased out the household use of chlorpyrifos and diazinon. In the current study, Dr. Robin M. Whyatt, from Columbia University in New York, and colleagues assessed the effect of this ban on the outcomes of 314 infants born in New York City. The infants were divided into groups based on whether their birth occurred before or after January 1, 2001.

Consistent with their own previous report, the authors found that both birth weight and length decreased as cord plasma levels of chlorpyrifos rose. A similar inverse relationship was observed for diazinon. In contrast, propoxur, another insecticide, was only weakly associated with decreased birth length (p = 0.05).

The average weight difference between infants in the highest and lowest pesticide exposure groups was 186.3 grams, the investigators note.

Infants born after January 1, 2001 had substantially lower pesticide exposure levels than those born before this date, the researchers report. Moreover, the levels present in the former group seemed to have no effect on growth.

"This human study confirms the developmental impact, shown previously in animal studies, of these insecticides," Dr. Whyatt said in a statement. "It also demonstrates the positive effect of the federal ban, which has substantially reduced exposures and benefited human health."

"The differences in fetal growth seen here are comparable to the differences between babies whose mothers smoke during pregnancy," Dr. Whyatt noted. "The fact that the ban was associated with such an immediate change in birth weight and length provides considerable evidence of cause and effect."

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