Residential pesticide use during pregnancy among a cohort of urban minority women

Residential pesticide use is widespread in the United States. However, data are limited specific to use among minority populations. Nor are data available on the extent of pesticide exposure resulting from residential use during pregnancy. We have gathered questionnaire data on pesticide use in the home during pregnancy from 316 African-American and Dominican women residing in northern Manhattan and the South Bronx. Additionally, 72 women underwent personal air monitoring for 48 hr during their third trimester of pregnancy to determine exposure levels to 21 pesticides (19 insecticides and 2 fungicides). Of the women questioned, 266 of 314 (85%) reported that pest control measures were used in the home during pregnancy; 111 of 314 (35%) reported that their homes were sprayed by an exterminator, and of those, 45% said the spraying was done more than once per month. Most (>or= 90%) of the pesticide was used for cockroach control. Use of pest control measures increased significantly with the level of housing disrepair reported. Of the women monitored, all (100%) had detectable levels of three insecticides: the organophosphates diazinon (range, 2.0-6,010 ng/m3) and chlorpyrifos (range, 0.7-193 ng/m3) and the carbamate propoxur (range, 3.8-1,380 ng/m3), as well as the fungicide o-phenylphenol (range, 5.7-743 ng/m3). We also frequently detected the following four insecticides (47-83% of samples) but at lower concentrations: the pyrethroid trans-permethrin, piperonyl butoxide (an indicator of exposure to pyrethrins), and the organochlorines 1,1,1-trichloro-2,2-bis(p-chlorophenyl)ethane and chlordane. Thirty percent of the women had detectable levels of all eight pesticides. Exposures were generally higher among African Americans than among Dominicans. We detected other pesticides in <or= 10% of samples. Results show widespread prenatal pesticide use among minority women in this cohort. Diazinon exposures for some women may have exceeded health-based levels, and our findings support recent federal action to phase out residential use of this insecticide.

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