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Mosquito Spray Used To Fight Zika Linked To Delayed Motor Skills

10 June 2017, 9:51 am EDT By Athena Chan Tech Times
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Many local governments in the United States are using spray insecticides to control the spread of Zika virus-carrying mosquitoes. A new research finds motor skills deficit among infants who were prenatally exposed to such chemicals.  ( Joe Raedle | Getty Images )

One of the most striking effects of the Zika virus that had many scared is its capability to affect unborn children. Though the outbreak is relatively controlled, research now shows that even the very sprays that people use to prevent Zika-carrying mosquitoes can also have adverse effects on babies.

Effects Of Common Chemicals

Previous research on the effects of insecticide chemicals has been limited to the agricultural and occupational hazards of prolonged exposure to the chemicals. Now a study published on June 8 in the journal Environment International is associating the use of the chemical Naled, which is the main ingredient in bug spray, to delayed motor skill development among infants.

Researchers from the University of Michigan found that infants who have been prenatally exposed to the chemical had lower scores on fine motor skills test compared with the scores of those with minimal exposure.

The study was conducted in China where researchers measured 30 organophosphate insecticides (OP) in the cord blood of a group of Chinese infants using gas chromatography mass spectrometry. What they found was that five of the chemicals most used in insecticides, including Naled, showed up in at least 10 percent of cord blood they tested.

Motor developments of the said infants were then tested at age six weeks and again at nine months using the Peabody Developmental Motor Scales 2nd Edition (PDMS-2), which measured reflexes, grasping, visual-motor integration, body control, and locomotion.

At six weeks of age, none of the infants exposed to OP showed any deficits in motor function. At nine months, however, the infants who were prenatally exposed to OP, specifically Naled and chlorpyrifos, scored 3 to 4 percent lower in motor function, with female infants showing more sensitivity to the OP's effects compared to the male infants.

US Insecticide Use

In the United States, using Naled in pesticides in low concentrations and with proper usage is still in compliance with regulations. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) agree that Naled does not pose any health risks to both humans and pets.

It has been extensively used in the country since the 1950s and has been a part of mosquito control in emergency responses to disasters such as hurricanes and floods. Further, many local governments are currently using Naled to control the mosquito population.

On the other hand, the EPA has set tolerances for chlorpyrifos in agricultural products, as it is considered a toxic substance, and children are advised not to drink water with chlorpyrifos levels higher than 0.03 milligrams per liter.

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