Spring babies have reduced academic performance due to pesticides in the Midwest
Spring babies do worse in school due to pesticides
Date of conception impacts baby’s future academic achievement
May 6, 2007
A new study links conception date to academic achievement later in life. The reason? Summertime pesticide use in the U.S. Midwest.
Analyzing standardized test scores (Indiana Statewide Testing for Educational Progress) for 1,667,391 students in Indiana, neonatologist Paul Winchester, of the Indiana University School of Medicine, and colleagues found that children conceived in June through August had lower test scores than average.
Dr. Winchester said that fetal exposure to pesticides could be the cause.
“The fetal brain begins developing soon after conception. The pesticides we use to control pests in fields and our homes and the nitrates we use to fertilize crops and even our lawns are at their highest level in the summer,” said Dr. Winchester. “Exposure to pesticides and nitrates can alter the hormonal milieu of the pregnant mother and the developing fetal brain. While our findings do not represent absolute proof that pesticides and nitrates contribute to lower ISTEP scores, they strongly support such a hypothesis.”
The researchers note that nitrates and pesticides are known to cause maternal hypothyroidism, a condition associated with lower cognitive scores in offspring.
“We have now linked higher pesticide and nitrate exposure in surface water with lower cognitive scores. Neurodevelopmental consequences of exposure to pesticides and nitrates may not be obvious for many decades,” warned Dr. Winchester.
“I believe this work may lay the foundation for some of the most important basic and clinical research, and public health initiatives of our time. To recognize that what we put into our environment has potential pandemic effects on pregnancy outcome and possibly on child development is a momentous observation, which hopefully will help transform the way humanity cares for its world,” said James Lemons of the Indiana University School of Medicine.
The results will be presented at the Pediatric Academic Societies’ annual meeting May 7. The meeting is sponsored by the American Pediatric Society, the Society for Pediatric Research, the Ambulatory Pediatric Association, and the American Academy of Pediatrics.