Exposure to indoor pesticides during pregnancy in a multiethnic, urban cohort.

Gertrud S. Berkowitz, Josephine Obel, Elena Deych, Robert Lapinski, James Godbold, Zhisong Liu, Philip J. Landrigan, Mary S. Wolff

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243 Scopus citations


Evidence is growing that indoor pesticide exposure is of considerable magnitude in the United States and that pesticide concentrations may be especially high in urban areas. Of particular concern is exposure of pregnant women because animal data suggest that exposure to pesticides during pregnancy and early life may impair neurodevelopment in the offspring. To investigate the relationship between prenatal exposure to indoor pesticides and infant growth and development, we are conducting a prospective, multiethnic cohort study of mothers and infants delivered at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. This article provides data on pesticide exposure based on questionnaire items and analysis of maternal urinary metabolite levels among 386 women. Both the questionnaire and laboratory data revealed that exposure to indoor pesticides was considerable. The proportion of women estimated from questionnaire data as having been exposed during pregnancy to indoor pesticides (approximately 70%) was somewhat lower than the 80-90% of American households who reportedly used pesticides in previous surveys, but some of the latter surveys included both indoor and outdoor pesticide use. Urinary metabolite levels of 3,5,6-trichloro-2-pyridinol (TCPy; median = 11.3 micro g/g creatinine), phenoxybenzoic acid (PBA; median =19.3 micro g/g creatinine), and pentachlorophenol (PCP; median =7.3 micro g/g creatinine) were higher than those reported in other studies of adults in the United States. Furthermore, no associations were evident between the pesticide questionnaire data and the urinary metabolites. Assessments of sociodemographic and building characteristics with questionnaire data and the metabolite levels revealed no consistent trends. Significant temporal variations were observed for urinary PBA but not TCPy or PCP. The temporal variations for PBA were consistent with seasonal spraying of pyrethroid pesticides. These data underscore the need to assess the potentially adverse effects of pesticide exposure on fetuses and infants and the importance of finding alternative methods for pest management to reduce pesticide exposures.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)79-84
Number of pages6
JournalEnvironmental Health Perspectives
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2003


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