West Indies: exposure to chlordecone would harm the cognitive development of children

West Indies exposure to chlordecone would harm the cognitive development

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    According to an Inserm study, pre or postnatal exposure to chlordecone would have a harmful effect on the fetus and the development of young children. One more data in the use of this decried pesticide.

    It is a health scandal that never ends. Chlordecone, a pesticide used for years in banana plantations in the West Indies, considered an endocrine disruptor, a neurotoxin, a toxic product for reproduction and development, as well as a carcinogen, would still have fallout to this day. According to Inserm researchers this time, exposure to this product would also directly harm the cognitive development of babies and children. Indeed, the molecule could interact with many neurotransmitters and in particular on estrogens. “However, estrogens play a crucial role, in a differentiated way according to the chromosomal sex, in the development of the brain. advances Inserm.

    A decrease in IQ in children exposed after birth

    The researchers started from a cohort conducted in Guadeloupe with 576 children, whose pesticide level was taken from the umbilical cord before birth and in the blood at the age of 7 years. The intellectual abilities of these children were also observed according to various criteria: verbal comprehension, information processing speed, working memory and perceptual reasoning. Information completed by the mothers on the emotions and relational problems with the children’s peers (so-called internalized difficulties), and the problems of social behavior, hyperactivity or inattention (so-called externalized difficulties).

    The study found several data:

    • For children exposed before birth, internalized difficulties were 3% higher on average than for unexposed children, but this only affected girls (7% increase);
    • Postnatal exposure has been linked to intellectual capacities diminished by 0.64 IQ points, especially in boys this time;

    Postnatal exposure had more impact on children’s neurodevelopment, with more so-called externalized difficulties, in both genders. Their findings appeared in the journal Environmental Health.

    For Luc Multigner, research director at Inserm, the discovery is not anecdotal: “While the neurological and neurobehavioral effects observed in this study are relatively mild and subtle at the individual level, they may, given the widespread exposure of the Caribbean population to chlordecone, have a non-negligible impact at the population level” .

    Chlordecone, implicated in several scandals

    Used in banana plantations between 1972 and 1993 in the West Indies, well after its ban in France in 1990, chlordecone has proven to be highly carcinogenic and has been officially implicated in a large number of prostate cancers. In Martinique, the incidence of prostate cancer is even the highest in the world, with 227 cases per 100,000 people per year, according to the International Journal of Cancer. This pesticide is also criticized today for having a role in the risk of prematurity in exposed women. However, on January 5, the courts declared a final dismissal of the chlordecone poisoning case in the West Indies after more than sixteen years of proceedings.

    According to Santé Publique France, 90% of the West Indian populations have been exposed to chlordecone contamination.