Can Exposure to Chlorpyrifos Slow Children’s Brain Development?


Chlorpyrifos is very commonly used in the United States. It is used on almost everything, from corn to strawberries, apples, oranges and broccoli. Over half of all the apples and broccoli in the US are sprayed with chlorpyrifos. One of the most dangerous pesticides, chlorpyrifos has been known to cause some serious developmental issues in children.

According to the studies, even if this pesticide is used in small amounts, it can have an effect on the neurological development of children and when used in large doses, it acts as a neurotoxin that can even cause death. The product has however been banned by the EPA as a household product but it can still be found in raw foods, juices and in fact, baby food.

A revised human health assessment for chlorpyrifos was released by the EPA in November 2016, confirming no safe uses for the pesticide, it was found that:

  • There is no safe level of chlorpyrifos in drinking water.
  • Even if the workers practice maximum personal pesticide protective equipment and engineering controls, they are still exposed to unsafe levels of the pesticide.
  • Pesticide drift reaches unsafe levels at 300 feet from the edge of the field.
  • It is even found at unsafe levels in the air at homes, schools and communities in agricultural areas.
  • All food exposures exceed safe levels of chlorpyrifos that are 140 times of what has been deemed safe by the EPA.

In this article:

What Effect Does it Have on Child Development?
Are You at Risk?
What can be Done?
How Can You Make a Change?

Exposure to Chlorpyrifos: Effect on Child’s Brain Development


What Effect Does it Have on Child Development?

Considering scientific studies, prenatal and childhood exposure to chlorpyrifos has been linked with lower birth weight, higher rates of attention disorders and movement disorders and reduced IQ. There have been years of research on this subject and all of them state that chlorpyrifos does lead to significant harm to children, like diminished cognitive ability and physical abilities.

Are You at Risk?

Pregnant women, children, manufacturers, farmers and farmworkers are at most risk. Farm and factory exposure can all be caused through mixing, handling and applying the nerve agent pesticide. Not only this but you can also be exposed to the same from entering the fields after they have been sprayed. In fact, even if you follow all the maximum safety measures, you are still exposed to unsafe levels.

Apart from this, if we consider other people except for them, they are exposed through pesticides in raw fruits and vegetables, drinking water contamination and baby food.

Moreover, children are at a greater exposure because they tend to put their hands in their mouth more often. In addition to this, they also tend to eat and drink more contaminated products.


The enzyme that regulates nerve impulses is suppressed during acute chlorpyrifos poisoning. This further affects the nervous system, cardiovascular system and respiratory system. Coughing, shortness of breath, dizziness, muscle contractions and blurred vision are some of its immediate effects. Some of the long-term effects include numbness, weakness and cramping in limbs and confusion.

Lower level chronic exposure too can lead to similar effects. Severe poisonings can lead to paralysis of limbs and respiratory muscles and further death.

What can be Done?

There are a few things that you can do in order to stay safe from the adverse effects of this pesticide. Listed below are a few measures that you can follow:

  • Additional precautions should be taken by farmworkers, manufacturers and others who are at a higher risk of exposure. For instance, blood tests of cholinesterase levels should be done. You should wear protective clothing, remove the gloves and wash them with soap and water, keep your work clothes separate and wash them separately after each use.
  • Go for organic fruits and vegetables whenever possible.
  • Always wash your fruits and vegetables as that can rinse away lingering chlorpyrifos.
  • Although it persists in indoor environment, it seems to break down relatively quickly when exposed to sunlight and other natural elements.

How Can You Make a Change?

If there is any more delay to ban this toxic chemical, it can lead to a tragedy very soon. You should thus:

  • Talk to your school about joining the campaign to keep this out of the food, water, yards and bodies.
  • Tell the EPA to ban chlorpyrifos.
  • local and state-wide policies can be made by the government to protect our health.


The use of chlorpyrifos still remains widespread. So, one of the things that can be done is eating organic fruits and vegetables. But at the same time, organic is also very expensive and may not be afforded by many average families.


Hope this article was of help for all our parents!! Please share your comments/queries/tips with us and help us create a world full of Happy and Healthy Babies!!