The Complexities of Toxicity: Prenatal Brain Development and Pesticide Exposure

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Are Preterm Babies and High Stress Moms at Higher Risk from Pesticides?

A new animal study published in Neurotoxicology and Teratology aimed to explore several of the variables that can contribute to negative outcomes in offspring, specifically in the brain, after exposure to pesticides. The premise for the study is that 10% of infants are exposed to dexamethasone, a steroid and the consensus treatment for preterm labor, and nearly 100% are exposed to organophosphates/pesticides.

  • The study was a proof of principal, 4-arm design with dexamethasone alone, chlorpyrifos alone (pesticide), and dexamethasone followed by chlorpyrifos delivered in windows corresponding to prenatal brain development / preterm labor exposure. They assessed impacts on the acetylcholine system, a known target for adverse developmental effects of both agents.
  • The study found that female offspring were relatively protected from brain changes related to either steroid or pesticide exposure, but that the combination of the two resulted in significant short and long-term deficits. Male offspring were vulnerable to changes from each of the agents singly, but potentially relatively protected from the dual exposure risks.
  • This has relevance to women receiving steroids for preterm birth, but also to those who may produce more bodily steroids related to experiences of stress or depression.
  • The study demonstrates the toxicology principal of differential risk based on co-exposures and individual differences and argues for the precautionary principal in use of persistent environmental chemicals.

You can read the study abstract yourself here.

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About Dr. Kelly Brogan

KELLY BROGAN, MD, is a holistic psychiatrist, author of the New York Times Bestselling book, A Mind of Your OwnOwn Your Self, the children’s book, A Time For Rain, and co-editor of the landmark textbook Integrative Therapies for Depression. She is the founder of the online healing program Vital Mind Reset, and the membership community, Vital Life Project. She completed her psychiatric training and fellowship at NYU Medical Center after graduating from Cornell University Medical College, and has a B.S. from M.I.T. in Systems Neuroscience. She is specialized in a root-cause resolution approach to psychiatric syndromes and symptoms. Learn More