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Handal, A.J., Sioban D. Harlow, J. Breilh, and B. Lozoff. 2008. "Occupational Exposure to Pesticides During Pregnancy and Neurobehavioral Development of Infants and Toddlers." Epidemiology, 19(6): 851-859.
Background: Few studies have examined the effects of in utero exposure to organophosphate and carbamate pesticides on neurobehavioral development in infants and young children. This study considers the potential effects of maternal occupation in the cutflower industry during pregnancy on neurobehavioral development in Ecuadorian children. Methods: Data were collected during 2003-2004 for 121 children aged 3-23 months and living in the rural highland region of Cayambe, Ecuador. Children were administered the Ages and Stages Questionnaire and were given specific developmental tests including prehension (reach-and-grasp) and visual skills. Information was gathered on maternal health and work characteristics, the home environment, and child health status. Growth measurements and a hemoglobin finger-prick blood test were obtained. We conducted multiple linear and logistic regression analyses. Results: Children whose mothers worked in the flower industry during pregnancy scored lower on communication (8% decrease in score, 95% confidence interval [CI]: - 16% to 0.5%) and fine motor skills (13% decrease, 95% CI: -22% to -5), and had a higher odds of having poor visual acuity (odds ratio = 4.7 [CI =1.1-20]), compared with children whose mothers did not work in the flower industry during pregnancy, after adjusting for potential confounders. Conclusions: Maternal occupation in the cut-flower industry during pregnancy may be associated with delayed neurobehavioral development of children aged 3-23 months. Possible hazards associated with working in the flower industry during pregnancy include pesticide exposure, exhaustion, and job stress.