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Impact on fetal growth of prenatal exposure to pesticides due to agricultural activities: a prospective cohort study in Brittany, France.

Abstract : BACKGROUND: Pesticide use is widespread in agriculture. Several studies have shown that pesticides used in agricultural fields can contaminate the domestic environment and thus be an important source of pesticide exposure of populations residing nearby. Epidemiological studies that have examined the health effects of in utero pesticide exposure from residence near agricultural activities suggest adverse effects, but the results are inconsistent. Our purpose was to investigate the effect on intrauterine growth of such exposure due to agricultural activities in the residential municipality. METHODS: A prospective birth cohort recruited 3421 pregnant women in a French agricultural region (Brittany, 2002-2006) through gynecologists, ultrasonographers, and maternity hospitals during routine prenatal care visits before 19 weeks of gestation. The national agricultural census in 2000 provided the percentages of the municipality area devoted to cultivation of corn, wheat, colza, peas, potatoes, and fresh vegetables. RESULTS: Birth weight and the risk of fetal growth restriction were not associated with agricultural activities in the municipality of residence in early pregnancy. Children whose mother lived in a municipality where peas were grown had a smaller head circumference at birth than those in municipalities not growing peas (-0.2 cm, p = 0.0002). Head circumference also tended to be lower when wheat was grown, but not to a statistically significant degree (p-trend = 0.10). Risk of an infant with a small head circumference was higher for mothers living in a municipality where peas (OR = 2.2; 95% CI = 1.2-3.6) or potatoes (OR = 1.5; 95% CI = 0.9-2.4) were grown. CONCLUSIONS: Agricultural activities in the municipality of residence may have negative effects on cranial growth. Cultivation of pea crops and, to a lesser degree, potato and wheat crops, may negatively affect head circumference. Insecticides, including organophosphate insecticides, were applied to most of the area devoted to pea and potato crops; this was less true for corn and wheat crops. These results must be interpreted in light of the study's limitations, in particular, the scale at which we could assess pesticide exposure.
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Claire Petit, Cécile Chevrier, Gaël Durand, Christine Monfort, Florence Rouget, et al.. Impact on fetal growth of prenatal exposure to pesticides due to agricultural activities: a prospective cohort study in Brittany, France.. Environmental Health, BioMed Central, 2010, 9 (1), pp.71. ⟨10.1186/1476-069X-9-71⟩. ⟨inserm-00663711⟩

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