Prenatal exposure to pyrethroid pesticides and childhood behavior and executive functioning

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

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

77 Scopus citations


Several previous studies of pyrethroid biomarkers and behavior have reported associations between concurrent pyrethroid levels and adverse behavioral problems in children. One geospatial study reported associations between prenatal exposure to pyrethroids and autism. However, the association between prenatal pyrethroid biomarkers and childhood behavior is unknown. The Mount Sinai Children's Environmental Health Center is a prospective birth cohort with urinary pyrethroid biomarkers during pregnancy and behavioral measurements at 4, 6, and 7–9 years of age. Primiparous women were enrolled between 1998 and 2002. 162 mother/child pairs with complete exposure and behavioral outcomes data were used to investigate associations between detectable levels of prenatal pyrethroid metabolites and scores on the Behavioral Assessment System for Children and the Behavior Rating Inventory of Executive Function. Overall, detection frequencies of pyrethroid metabolites were low (<30%). In longitudinal mixed models, detectable levels of 3-PBA during pregnancy were associated with worse Internalizing (β −4.50, 95% CI −8.05, −0.95), Depression (β −3.21, 95% CI −6.38, −0.05), Somatization (β −3.22, 95% CI −6.38, −0.06), Behavioral Regulation (β −3.59, 95% CI −6.97, −0.21), Emotional Control (β −3.35, 95% CI −6.58, −0.12), Shifting (β −3.42, 95% CI −6.73, −0.11), and Monitoring (β −4.08, 95% CI −7.07, −1.08) scales. Detectable levels of cis-DCCA were associated with worse Externalizing (β −4.74, 95% CI −9.37, −0.10), Conduct Problems (β −5.35, 95% CI −9.90, −0.81), Behavioral Regulation (β −6.42, 95% CI −11.39, −1.45), and Inhibitory Control (β −7.20, 95% CI −12.00, −2.39). Although detection frequencies of pyrethroid metabolites were low, we found suggestive evidence that prenatal exposure to 3-PBA and cis-DCCA may be associated with a variety of behavioral and executive functioning deficits.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)231-238
Number of pages8
StatePublished - Sep 2017


  • Behavior
  • Depression
  • Executive functioning
  • Neurodevelopment
  • Pesticides
  • Pyrethroids

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience
  • Toxicology


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