Birth Defects

Agopian et al, 2012

Agopian AJ, Lupo PJ, Canfield MA, Langlois PH, “Case-control study of maternal residential atrazine exposure and male genital malformations,” American Journal of Medical Genetics Part A, 2012, 161A:5, doi: 10.1002/ajmg.a.35815.

ABSTRACT: Exposure to endocrine disrupting chemicals has been associated with risk for male genital malformations. However, residential prenatal exposure to atrazine, an endocrine disrupting pesticide, has not been evaluated. We obtained data from the Texas Birth Defects Registry for 16,433 cases with isolated male genital malformations and randomly selected, population-based controls delivered during 1999-2008. County-level estimates of atrazine exposure from the United States Geological Survey were linked to all subjects. We evaluated the relationship between estimated maternal residential atrazine exposure and risk for male genital malformations in offspring. Separate unconditional logistic regression analyses were conducted for hypospadias, cryptorchidism, and small penis. We observed modest, but consistent, associations between medium-low and/or medium levels of estimated periconceptional maternal residential atrazine exposure and every male genital malformation category evaluated (e.g., adjusted odds ratio for medium compared to low atrazine levels and all male genital malformations: 1.2, 95% confidence interval: 1.1-1.3). Previous literature from animal and epidemiological studies supports our findings. Our results provide further evidence of a suspected teratogenic role of atrazine.

Benachour and Seralini, 2009.

Benachour N, Séralini GE, “Glyphosate formulations induce apoptosis and necrosis in human umbilical, embryonic, and placental cell,” Chemical Research in Toxicology, 2009, 22(1):97-105, doi: 10.1021/ tx800218n.

ABSTRACT: We have evaluated the toxicity of four glyphosate (G)-based herbicides in Roundup formulations, from 10(5) times dilutions, on three different human cell types. This dilution level is far below agricultural recommendations and corresponds to low levels of residues in food or feed. The formulations have been compared to G alone and with its main metabolite AMPA or with one known adjuvant of R formulations, POEA. HUVEC primary neonate umbilical cord vein cells have been tested with 293 embryonic kidney and JEG3 placental cell lines. All R formulations cause total cell death within 24 h, through an inhibition of the mitochondrial succinate dehydrogenase activity, and necrosis, by release of cytosolic adenylate kinase measuring membrane damage. They also induce apoptosis via activation of enzymatic caspases 3/7 activity. This is confirmed by characteristic DNA fragmentation, nuclear shrinkage (pyknosis), and nuclear fragmentation (karyorrhexis), which is demonstrated by DAPI in apoptotic round cells. G provokes only apoptosis, and HUVEC are 100 times more sensitive overall at this level. The deleterious effects are not proportional to G concentrations but rather depend on the nature of the adjuvants. AMPA and POEA separately and synergistically damage cell membranes like R but at different concentrations. Their mixtures are generally even more harmful with G. In conclusion, the R adjuvants like POEA change human cell permeability and amplify toxicity induced already by G, through apoptosis and necrosis. The real threshold of G toxicity must take into account the presence of adjuvants but also G metabolism and time-amplified effects or bioaccumulation. This should be discussed when analyzing the in vivo toxic actions of R. This work clearly confirms that the adjuvants in Roundup formulations are not inert. Moreover, the proprietary mixtures available on the market could cause cell damage and even death around residual levels to be expected, especially in food and feed derived from R formulation-treated crops.

Carmichael et al., 2016

Carmichael SL, Yang W, Roberts E, Kegley SE, Brown TJ, English PB, Lammer EJ, Shaw GM, “Residential agricultural pesticide exposures and risks of selected birth defects among offspring in the San Joaquin Valley of California,” Birth Defects Research Part A: Clinical and Molecular Teratology, 2016, 106:1, doi: 10.1002/bdra.23459.


BACKGROUND: We examined associations of birth defects with residential proximity to commercial agricultural pesticide applications in California. Subjects included 367 cases representing five types of birth defects and 785 nonmalformed controls born 1997 to 2006.

METHODS:Associations with any versus no exposure to physicochemical groups of pesticides and specific chemicals were assessed using logistic regression adjusted for covariates. Overall, 46% of cases and 38% of controls were classified as exposed to pesticides within a 500 m radius of mother’s address during a 3-month periconceptional window.

RESULTS:We estimated odds ratios (ORs) for 85 groups and 95 chemicals with five or more exposed cases and control mothers. Ninety-five percent confidence intervals (CI) excluded 1.0 for 11 ORs for groups and 22 ORs for chemicals, ranging from 1.9 to 3.1 for groups and 1.8 to 4.9 for chemicals except for two that were <1 (noted below).

CONCLUSION:For groups, these ORs were for anotia/microtia (n = 95 cases) and dichlorophenoxy acids/esters and neonicotinoids; anorectal atresia/stenosis (n = 77) and alcohol/ethers and organophosphates (these ORs were < 1.0); transverse limb deficiencies (n = 59) and dichlorophenoxy acids/esters, petroleum derivatives, and triazines; and craniosynostosis (n = 79) and alcohol/ethers, avermectins, neonicotinoids, and organophosphates. For chemicals, ORs were: anotia/microtia and five pesticides from the groups dichlorophenoxy acids/esters, copper-containing compounds, neonicotinoids, organophosphates, and triazines; transverse limb deficiency and six pesticides – oxyfluorfen and pesticides from the groups copper-containing compounds, 2,6-dinitroanilines, neonicotinoids, petroleum derivatives and polyalkyloxy compounds; craniosynostosis and 10 pesticides – oxyfluorfen and pesticides from the groups alcohol/ethers, avermectins, n-methyl-carbamates, neonicotinoids, ogranophosphates (two chemicals), polyalkyloxy compounds (two chemicals), and pyrethroids; and congenital diaphragmatic hernia (n = 62) and a copper-containing compound.

Chevrier et al., 2011

Cecile Chevrier, Gwendolina Limon, Christine Monfort, Florence Rouget, Ronan Garlantezec, et al., “Urinary biomarkers of prenatal atrazine exposure and adverse birth outcomes in the PELAGIE birth cohort,” Environmental Health Perspectives, 2011, 119:7, DOI: 10.1289/EHP.100277.


BACKGROUND:  Despite evidence of atrazine toxicity in developing organisms from experimental studies, few studies—and fewer epidemiologic investigations—have examined the potential effects of prenatal exposure.

OBJECTIVES: We assessed the association between adverse birth outcomes and urinary biomarkers of prenatal atrazine exposure, while taking into account exposures to other herbicides used on corn crops (simazine, alachlor, metolachlor, and acetochlor).

METHODS: This study used a case-cohort design nested in a prospective birth cohort conducted in the Brittany region of France from 2002 through 2006. We collected maternal urine samples to examine pesticide exposure biomarkers before the 19th week of gestation.

RESULTS: We found quantifiable levels of atrazine or atrazine mercapturate in urine samples from 5.5% of 579 pregnant women, and dealkylated and identified hydroxylated triazine metabolites in 20% and 40% of samples, respectively. The presence versus absence of quantifiable levels of atrazine or a specific atrazine metabolite was associated with fetal growth restriction [odds ratio (OR) = 1.5; 95% confidence interval (CI), 1.0–2.2] and small head circumference for sex and gestational age (OR = 1.7; 95% CI, 1.0–2.7). Associations with major congenital anomalies were not evident with atrazine or its specific metabolites. Head circumference was inversely associated with the presence of quantifiable urinary metolachlor.

CONCLUSIONS: This study is the first to assess associations of birth outcomes with multiple urinary biomarkers of exposure to triazine and chloroacetanilide herbicides. Evidence of associations with adverse birth outcomes raises particular concerns for countries where atrazine is still in use.  FULL TEXT

Cimino et al., 2017

Andria M. Cimino, Abee L. Boyles, Kristina A. Thayer, and Melissa J. Perry, “Effects of Neonicotinoid Pesticide Exposure on Human Health: A Systematic Review,” Environmental Health Perspectives, 2017, 125:2, DOI: 10.1289/EHP515.


BACKGROUND: Numerous studies have identified detectable levels of neonicotinoids (neonics) in the environment, adverse effects of neonics in many species, including mammals, and pathways through which human exposure to neonics could occur, yet little is known about the human health effects of neonic exposure.

OBJECTIVE: In this systematic review, we sought to identify human population studies on the health effects of neonics.

METHODS: Studies published in English between 2005 and 2015 were searched using PubMed, Scopus, and Web of Science databases. No restrictions were placed on the type of health outcome assessed. Risk of bias was assessed using guidance developed by the National Toxicology Program’s Office of Health Assessment and Translation.

RESULTS: Eight studies investigating the human health effects of exposure to neonics were identified. Four examined acute exposure: Three neonic poisoning studies reported two fatalities (n = 1,280 cases) and an occupational exposure study of 19 forestry workers reported no adverse effects. Four general population studies reported associations between chronic neonic exposure and adverse developmental or neurological outcomes, including tetralogy of Fallot (AOR 2.4, 95% CI: 1.1, 5.4), anencephaly (AOR 2.9, 95% CI: 1.0, 8.2), autism spectrum disorder [AOR 1.3, 95% credible interval (CrI): 0.78, 2.2], and a symptom cluster including memory loss and finger tremor (OR 14, 95% CI: 3.5, 57). Reported odds ratios were based on exposed compared to unexposed groups.

CONCLUSIONS: The studies conducted to date were limited in number with suggestive but methodologically weak findings related to chronic exposure. Given the wide-scale use of neonics, more studies are needed to fully understand their effects on human health.  FULL TEXT

Garry et al., 1996

Garry VF, Schreinemachers D, Harkins ME, Griffith J, “Pesticide appliers, biocides, and birth defects in rural Minnesota,” Environmental Health Perspectives, 1996, 104:4.

ABSTRACT: Earlier studies by our group suggested the possibility that offspring of pesticide appliers might have increased risks of birth anomalies. To evaluate this hypothesis, 935 births to 34,772 state-licensed, private pesticide appliers in Minnesota occurring between 1989 and 1992 were linked to the Minnesota state birth registry containing 210,723 live births in this timeframe. The birth defect rate for all birth anomalies was significantly increased in children born to private appliers. Specific birth defect categories, circulatory/respiratory, urogenital, and musculoskeletal/integumental, showed significant increases. For the general population and for appliers, the birth anomaly rate differed by corp-growing region. Western Minnesota, a major wheat, sugar beet, and potato growing region, showed the highest rate of birth anomalies per/1000 live births: 30.0 for private appliers versus 26.9 for the general population of the same region. The lowest rates, 23.7/1000 for private appliers versus 18.3/1000 for the general population, occurred in noncorp regions. The highest frequency of use of chlorophenoxy herbicides and fungicides also occurred in western Minnesota. Births in the general population of western Minnesota showed a significant increase in birth anomalies in the same three birth anomaly categories as appliers and for central nervous system anomalies. This increase was most pronounced for infants conceived in the spring. The seasonal effect did not occur in other regions. The male/female sex ratio for the four birth anomaly categories of interest in areas of high phenoxy herbicide/fungicide use is 2.8 for appliers versus 1.5 for the general population of the same region (p = 0.05). In minimal use regions, this ratio is 2.1 for appliers versus 1.7 for the general population. The pattern of excess frequency of birth anomalies by pesticide use, season, and alteration of sex ratio suggests exposure-related effects in appliers and the general population of the crop-growing region of western Minnesota.  FULL TEXT

Garry et al., 2002b

Garry VF, Harkins ME, Erickson LL, Long-Simpson LK, Holland SE, Burroughs BL, “Birth defects, season of conception, and sex of children born to pesticide applicators living in the Red River Valley of Minnesota, USA,” Environmental Health Perspectives, 2002, 110: Supplemental 3.

ABSTRACT: We previously demonstrated that the frequency of birth defects among children of residents of the Red River Valley (RRV), Minnesota, USA, was significantly higher than in other major agricultural regions of the state during the years 1989-1991, with children born to male pesticide applicators having the highest risk. The present, smaller cross-sectional study of 695 families and 1,532 children, conducted during 1997-1998, provides a more detailed examination of reproductive health outcomes in farm families ascertained from parent-reported birth defects. In the present study, in the first year of life, the birth defect rate was 31.3 births per 1,000, with 83% of the total reported birth defects confirmed by medical records. Inclusion of children identified with birth or developmental disorders within the first 3 years of life and later led to a rate of 47.0 per 1,000 (72 children from 1,532 live births). Conceptions in spring resulted in significantly more children with birth defects than found in any other season (7.6 vs. 3.7%). Twelve families had more than one child with a birth defect (n = 28 children). Forty-two percent of the children from families with recurrent birth defects were conceived in spring, a significantly higher rate than that for any other season. Three families in the kinships defined contributed a first-degree relative other than a sibling with the same or similar birth defect, consistent with a Mendelian inheritance pattern. The remaining nine families did not follow a Mendelian inheritance pattern. The sex ratio of children with birth defects born to applicator families shows a male predominance (1.75 to 1) across specific pesticide class use and exposure categories exclusive of fungicides. In the fungicide exposure category, normal female births significantly exceed male births (1.25 to 1). Similarly, the proportion of male to female children with birth defects is significantly lower (0.57 to 1; p = 0.02). Adverse neurologic and neurobehavioral developmental effects clustered among the children born to applicators of the fumigant phosphine (odds ratio [OR] = 2.48; confidence interval [CI], 1.2-5.1). Use of the herbicide glyphosate yielded an OR of 3.6 (CI, 1.3-9.6) in the neurobehavioral category. Finally, these studies point out that (a) herbicides applied in the spring may be a factor in the birth defects observed and (b) fungicides can be a significant factor in the determination of sex of the children of the families of the RRV. Thus, two distinct classes of pesticides seem to have adverse effects on different reproductive outcomes. Biologically based confirmatory studies are needed. FULL TEXT

Markel et al., 2015

Markel TA, Proctor C, Ying J, Winchester PD, “Environmental pesticides increase the risk of developing hypertrophic pyloric stenosis,” Journal of Pediatric Surgery, 2015, 50:8, DOI: 10.1016/J.JPEDSURG.2014.12.009.


BACKGROUND: Hypertrophic pyloric stenosis (HPS) is a condition noted within the first several weeks of life that results in hypertrophy of the pyloric muscle between the stomach and duodenum. The etiology has not been elucidated but genetic and environmental influences are suspected. We hypothesized that agricultural pesticides would be associated with an increased incidence of pyloric stenosis.

STUDY DESIGN: Data from infants with HPS were obtained from the Indiana Birth Defects Registry (IBDR) for all counties in Indiana from 2005 to 2009. Data from all live births were obtained from the Indiana State Health Department (ISHD). Maternal demographics and clinical characteristics of infants were abstracted. The US Geological Survey (USGS) provided estimated use of agricultural pesticides (EPEST), and these values were correlated with HPS incidence. Univariate and multivariate logistical regression models were used to assess the association between HPS risk and pesticide use.

RESULTS: A total of 442,329 newborns were studied with 1313 HPS cases recorded. The incidence of HPS was 30/10,000 live births. HPS incidence was correlated with total county pesticide use, as well as subcategories of pesticides (fungicides, fumigants, insecticides, herbicides). Indiana counties were then divided into low, moderate and high pesticide use (mean±standard deviation: 127,722±73,374, 308,401±36,915, and 482,008±97,260pounds of pesticides). Incidence of HPS was 26, 29, and 36 cases per 10,000 in low, moderate and high pesticide-use counties respectively. Subset analysis showed that the positive association between HPS and county pesticide use was more likely for male infants from mothers who were white, aged 20-35 years, had education at high school or lower, and smoked (p<0.05).

CONCLUSION: Pesticide use correlated significantly with incidence of HPS. Positive correlations between HPS risk and pesticide use were found for most risk factors. Further studies will be needed to verify our findings and further delineate the nature of this correlation.

Mesnage et al., 2012b

Mesnage R, Moesch C, Le Grand R, Lauthier G, de Vendomois JS, Gress S, Seralini GR, “Glyphosate exposure in a farmer’s family,”  Journal of Environmental Protection, 3:1001-1003, DOI: 10.4236/jep.2012.39115.

ABSTRACT: We tested the presence of glyphosate in the urines of a farmer who sprayed a glyphosate based herbicide on his land, and in his family, as his children were born with birth defects that could be due to or promoted by pesticides. Glyphosate residues were measured in urines a day before, during, and two days after spraying, by liquid chromatography-linear ion trap mass spectrometry. Glyphosate reached a peak of 9.5 µg/L in the farmer after spraying, and 2 µg/L were found in him and in one of his children living at a distance from the field, two days after the pulverization. Oral or dermal absorptions could explain the differential pesticide excretions, even in family members at a distance from the fields. A more detailed following of agricultural practices and family exposures should be advocated together with information and recommendations.  FULL TEXT


Paganelli et al., 2010

Alejandra Paganelli, Victoria Gnazzo, Helena Acosta, Silvia L. López, and Andrés E. Carrasco, “Glyphosate-Based Herbicides Produce Teratogenic Effects on Vertebrates by Impairing Retinoic Acid Signaling,” Chemical Research in Toxicology, 2010, 23:10, DOI: 10.1021/TX1001749.


The broad spectrum herbicide glyphosate is widely used in agriculture worldwide. There has been ongoing controversy regarding the possible adverse effects of glyphosate on the environment and on human health. Reports of neural defects and craniofacial malformations from regions where glyphosate-based herbicides (GBH) are used led us to undertake an embryological approach to explore the effects of low doses of glyphosate in development. Xenopus laevis embryos were incubated with 1/5000 dilutions of a commercial GBH. The treated embryos were highly abnormal with marked alterations in cephalic and neural crest development and shortening of the anterior−posterior (A-P) axis. Alterations on neural crest markers were later correlated with deformities in the cranial cartilages at tadpole stages. Embryos injected with pure glyphosate showed very similar phenotypes. Moreover, GBH produced similar effects in chicken embryos, showing a gradual loss of rhombomere domains, reduction of the optic vesicles, and microcephaly. This suggests that glyphosate itself was responsible for the phenotypes observed, rather than a surfactant or other component of the commercial formulation. A reporter gene assay revealed that GBH treatment increased endogenous retinoic acid (RA) activity in Xenopus embryos and cotreatment with a RA antagonist rescued the teratogenic effects of the GBH. Therefore, we conclude that the phenotypes produced by GBH are mainly a consequence of the increase of endogenous retinoid activity. This is consistent with the decrease of Sonic hedgehog (Shh) signaling from the embryonic dorsal midline, with the inhibition of otx2 expression and with the disruption of cephalic neural crest development. The direct effect of glyphosate on early mechanisms of morphogenesis in vertebrate embryos opens concerns about the clinical findings from human offspring in populations exposed to GBH in agricultural fields.  FULL TEXT