Childrens exposure to neurotoxic compounds poses a major problem to public health because of their actively developing brain that makes them highly vulnerable. However, limited information is available on neuropsychological effects in children associated with pre- and postnatal exposures to pesticides.
To evaluate the association between current and pre- and postnatal exposures to pesticides and their effects on neurodevelopment in children aged 6–11 years living in agricultural communities from South-Eastern Spain.
An ambispective study was conducted on 305 children aged 6–11 years randomly selected from public schools of the study area. Current exposure to organophosphate pesticides was assessed measuring children’s urinary levels of dialkylphosphates (DAPs). Both prenatal and postnatal residential exposure to pesticides was estimated by developing a geographical information system (GIS) technology-based index that integrated distance-weighted measure of agricultural surface, time-series of crop areas per municipality and year, and land-use maps. Neuropsychological performance was evaluated with the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children-Fourth Edition (WISC-IV). The association of pre- and postnatal and current pesticide exposure with WISC-IV scale scores was assessed using multivariate linear regression models and generalized estimating equation (GEE) models, respectively.
Greater urinary DAP levels were associated with a poorer performance on intelligence quotient and verbal comprehension domain, with effects being more prominent in boys than in girls. The influence of an increase in 10 ha per year in crop surface around the child’s residence during the postnatal period was associated with decreased intelligence quotient, processing speed and verbal comprehension scores. As regards prenatal exposure to pesticides, a poor processing speed performance was observed. These effects were also more prominent in boys than in girls.
Our results suggest that postnatal exposure to pesticides can negatively affect children’s neuropsychological performance. Prenatal exposure was weakly associated to neurodevelopment impairment.