Prenatal exposure to organophosphate pesticides and reciprocal social behavior in childhood

Melissa A. Furlong, Stephanie M. Engel, Dana Boyd Barr, Mary S. Wolff

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

69 Scopus citations


Prenatal exposure to organophosphate pesticides (OPs) has been associated with adverse neurodevelopmental outcomes in childhood, including low IQ, pervasive developmental disorder (PDD), attention problems and ADHD. Many of these disorders involve impairments in social functioning. Thus, we investigated the relationship between biomarkers of prenatal OP exposure and impaired reciprocal social behavior in childhood, as measured by the Social Responsiveness Scale (SRS). Using a multi-ethnic urban prospective cohort of mother-infant pairs in New York City recruited between 1998 and 2002 (n. = 404) we examined the relation between third trimester maternal urinary levels of dialkylphosphate (σDAP) OP metabolites and SRS scores among 136 children who returned for the 7-9. year visit. Overall, there was no association between OPs and SRS scores, although in multivariate adjusted models, associations were heterogeneous by race and by sex. Among blacks, each 10-fold increase in total diethylphosphates (σDEP) was associated with poorer social responsiveness (β. = 5.1 points, 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.8, 9.4). There was no association among whites or Hispanics, or for total σDAP or total dimethylphosphate (σDMP) biomarker levels. Additionally, stratum-specific models supported a stronger negative association among boys for σDEPs (β. = 3.5 points, 95% CI 0.2, 6.8), with no notable association among girls. Our results support an association of prenatal OP exposure with deficits in social functioning among blacks and among boys, although this may be in part reflective of differences in exposure patterns.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)125-131
Number of pages7
JournalEnvironment international
StatePublished - Sep 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • Environmental exposures
  • Neurodevelopment
  • Organophosphate pesticides
  • Social Responsiveness Scale

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Environmental Science


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