In a previous blog post I talked about C-sections versus vaginal births and the impact of that decision on brain and mental development of offspring. In short, children born vaginally get a brain boost compared to children born via C-section. C-section rates are on the rise, so brain boosts are on the decline, but that’s not the only way we’re changing the intellectual face of society. According to a new study from the Columbia Center for Children’s Environmental Health, male children exposed to a specific chemical have lower IQs. The chemical in question is Chlorpyrifos, an insecticide. 

Golf Course

Who Comes in Contact with Chlorpyrifos?
Unlike some other studies that showed fetal side effects after exposure to rare chemicals, Chlorpyrifos is not rare at all. Up until 2001, the chemical was used as an insecticide in homes. After 2001, home use was banned, but commercial use was not. Golf courses, highway maintenance crews and farmers still use the chemical to this day to prevent insects from killing crops and destroying grass, trees and landscape. In some cases, homes traces of the chemical remained years after last use without direct contact with the insecticide. 

Pregnant women can come in contact with Chlorpyrifos just by breathing. Imagine sitting at a stop light waiting for that green with the windows down and the wind blowing through your hair. You look to the left and see the beautiful green golf course. You could be breathing in Chlorpyrifos without ever knowing it. 

What Does Chlorpyrifos Do to the Fetus?
According to researchers, the chemical may affect male memory. The ability to remember is part of overall IQ. Researchers termed it “working memory” and male children exposed to the insecticide measured more than 3 percentage points lower in working memory than female children. 

There is little you can do to prevent coming in contact with Chlorpyrifos, unless you live off the grid in the middle of nowhere and grow all your own food. Researchers are continuing to look into the negative impact of chemical exposures during pregnancy.