HARLINGEN, Texas (July 11, 2012) Air samples from homes of Hispanic mothers-to-be along the Texas-Mexico border contained multiple pesticides in a majority of the houses, according to a study conducted by the School of Medicine at The University of Texas Health Science Center San Antonio.
All the women were in the third trimester of pregnancy, when the fetal brain undergoes a growth spurt. Several studies have reported that pesticide exposure may adversely affect mental and motor development during infancy and childhood. The new report is in the summer issue of the Texas Public Health Journal sent to members this week.
Two-thirds of the families surveyed said they used pest control methods to kill cockroaches, rodents and other pests. Pregnant women and infants often spend 90 percent of their day indoors.
"There is a lack of education in our communities regarding the health hazards of these toxic pest control methods," said lead author Beatriz Tapia, M.D., M.P.H., lecturer at the UT Health Science Center Regional Academic Health Center campus in Harlingen, located 10 miles from the border. "We should concentrate on trying to educate families about low-cost methods that prevent infestations and use the least toxic pest control methods first."
A wise alternative
Integrated pest management (IPM) is a low-cost strategy to replace the use of residential pesticides, Dr. Tapia said. IPM focuses on installing screens and caulking doors and windows to keep out pests, putting away food and placing boric acid, a low-impact alternative, in walls.
"Once we educate our women of childbearing age about how they can safely and in a healthy manner diminish pests in their homes, they will feel empowered that they can make a difference in their family's life," Dr. Tapia said. She is a faculty associate in the university's Department of Family and Community Medicine and serves as environmental medicine trainin
|Contact: Will Sansom|
University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio