BACKGROUND : Although indoor residual spraying (IRS) with dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDT) and pyrethroids effectively controls malaria, it potentially increases human exposure to these insecticides. Previous studies suggest that prenatal exposure to these insecticides may impact human neurodevelopment.OBJECTIVES : We aimed to estimate the effects of maternal insecticide exposure and neurodevelopment of toddlers living in a malaria-endemic region currently using IRS.
The Venda Health Examination of Mothers, Babies and their Environment (VHEMBE) is a birth cohort of 752 mother-child pairs in Limpopo, South Africa. We measured maternal exposure to DDT and its breakdown product, dichlorodiphenyldichloroethylene (DDE), in maternal serum, and measured pyrethroid metabolites in maternal urine. We assessed children's neurodevelopment at 1 and 2 y of age using the Bayley Scales of Infant Development, third edition (BSID-III), and examined associations with maternal exposure.
RESULTS : DDT and DDE were not associated with significantly lower scores for any BSID-III scale. In contrast, each 10-fold increase in cis-DCCA, trans-DCCA, and 3-phenoxybenzoic acid were associated, respectively, with a -0.63 (95% CI: -1.14, -0.12), -0.48 (95% CI: -0.92, -0.05), and -0.58 (-1.11, -0.06) decrement in Social-Emotional scores at 1 y of age. In addition, each 10-fold increase in maternal cis-DBCA levels was associated with significant decrements at 2 y of age in Language Composite scores and Expressive Communication scores [β=-1.74 (95% CI: -3.34, -0.13) and β=-0.40 (95% CI: -0.77, -0.04), respectively, for a 10-fold increase]. Significant differences by sex were estimated for pyrethroid metabolites and motor function scores at 2 y of age, with higher scores for boys and lower scores for girls.
CONCLUSIONS : Prenatal exposure to pyrethroids may be associated at 1 y of age with poorer social-emotional development. At 2 y of age, poorer language development was observed with higher prenatal pyrethroid levels. Considering the widespread use of pyrethroids, these findings deserve further investigation.