Exposure to an organochlorine pesticide (chlordecone) and development of 18-month-old infants

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Abstract

Chlordecone is a persistent organochlorine pesticide that was used in the French West Indies until the early 1990s for banana weevil borer control. Human exposure to this chemical in this area still occurs nowadays due to consumption of contaminated food. Although adverse effects on neurodevelopment, including tremors and memory deficits, have been documented in experimental studies conducted with rodents exposed during the gestational and neonatal periods, no study has been conducted yet to determine if chlordecone alters child development. This study examines the relation of gestational and postnatal exposure to chlordecone to infant development at 18 months of age in a birth-cohort of Guadeloupean children. In a prospective longitudinal study conducted in Guadeloupe (Timoun mother–child cohort study), exposure to chlordecone was measured at birth from an umbilical cord blood sample (n = 141) and from a breast milk sample collected at 3 months postpartum (n = 75). Toddlers were assessed using an adapted version of the Ages and Stages Questionnaire. Higher chlordecone concentrations in cord blood were associated with poorer fine motor scores. When analyses were conducted separately for boys and girls, this effect was only observed among boys. These results suggest that prenatal exposure to chlordecone is associated with specific impairments in fine motor function in boys, and add to the growing evidence that exposure to organochlorine pesticides early in life impairs child development.

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