Evidence has been growing for years that organophosphates, a class of pesticides that growers spray on fruits and vegetables to protect them from insects, can cause lasting cognitive problems for unborn children.
Now a group of expert toxicologists has decided enough is enough. In a new paper published in the influential journal PLOS Medicine, they recommend governments ban organophosphates completely.
The paper's authors reviewed dozens of studies on the effects of organophosphates. Their conclusion: The compounds can cause terrible learning deficits in children, especially if the youngsters are exposed in the womb through their mothers' diets.
"We found no evidence of a safe level of organophosphate pesticide exposure for children," co-author Bruce Lanphear, a professor at Simon Fraser University, told the Guardian. "Well before birth, organophosphate pesticides are disrupting the brain in its earliest stages, putting them on track for difficulties in learning, memory, and attention, effects which may not appear until they reach school-age."
It's not clear whether the paper will actually compel anyone to ban pesticides, but it doesn't look likely in the U.S. — earlier this year, the Trump administration moved to block the use of organophosphates research to steer policy.
But as long as the agriculture industry keeps using the chemicals, scientists appear ready to keep sounding the alarm against them.
READ MORE: Organophosphate Exposures During Pregnancy and Child Neurodevelopment: Recommendations for Essential Policy Reforms [PLOS Medicine]
More on pesticides: The EPA Approves the Continued Use of a Harmful Chemical in Pesticides