Pesticide Ban Leads to Higher Baby Birth Weights

A ban on two common household pesticides resulted in a striking decline in the number of underweight infants born in areas where the chemicals had been used regularly, found a study by researchers at Columbia University. In 2000, the U.S. EPA banned indoor applications of chlorpyrifos and diazinon, used to control cockroaches and other pests. Babies born to women who had high exposures to the chemicals were an average of 6.6 ounces lighter than babies with mothers who had lower exposures — comparable to the difference between babies of smoking and non-smoking mothers. Low birth weight is linked to a host of health and developmental problems. The manufacturers of the pesticides originally opposed the ban but later consented to it; the chemicals are still permitted for agricultural use. Said study author Robin M. Whyatt, “There is no question that this is an instance where regulation worked — that the EPA imposed a ban and there was immediate benefit from it.”