A pesticide known to be toxic to the brain at high doses may have subtle effects throughout the body, researchers suggest. They have found abnormalities in heart and liver tissues of animals exposed during early development to chlorpyrifos.
At high doses, this chemical, which belongs to a group of pesticides called organophosphates, can cause headache, nausea, and other symptoms. Lower doses during fetal growth and early life have been shown to alter brain development and adult behavior in laboratory animals.
To reduce exposures in children and cut the chemical's prevalence in urban waterways, where it is commonly detectable, the Environmental Protection Agency in 2000 restricted certain uses of chlorpyrifos. It's nevertheless widely used legally in the United States to protect fruit and vegetable crops and to fight insects in buildings and lawns.
To test for effects of the chemical outside the nervous system, researchers at Duke University in Durham, N.C., inject