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March 24, 2006


[Rachel's introduction: North Dakota farm children exposed to
pesticides performed significantly lower than their peers on IQ
tests, a new study has found.]

By Patrick Springer, The Forum

North Dakota farm children exposed to pesticides performed
significantly lower than their peers in IQ tests, according to
preliminary results of a study released Thursday.

Researchers at the University of North Dakota studied two groups of
children in the northern Red River Valley, one group living on or near
an active farm or field, another living at least a mile away from
those locations.

Children living on or near farms tested an average of five points
lower on standard IQ tests, said Patricia Moulton, an experimental
psychologist at UND.

"That's a significant difference," she said.

The average intelligence score for the farm children was 98, still
within the range considered normal, 85 to 115. But it was well below
the average IQ score of 103 for the group with lower chronic exposures
to pesticides, Moulton said.

Each group was comprised of 64 children, a number determined to be
statistically sound, ages 7 to 12.

Children living on farms also had lower scores in verbal
comprehension, visual perceptual reasoning, memory and mental
processing speed, the study found.

The study, funded by a branch of the National Institutes of Health,
will go on to determine whether there is a correlation between the
level of exposure to pesticides and performance on memory,
intelligence and other mental functions.

"That's just the raw IQ," Moulton said of findings presented to the
Dakota Conference on Rural and Public Health. "We're going to look at
a dose-response relationship. We're going to be able to associate the
test scores with (pesticide) concentrations in the blood and urine."

Two earlier studies also found that children living in areas with
active pesticide use had lower scores in mental performance tests, but
those studies did not take into account level of exposure.

Moulton and her research partner, Thomas Petros, also an experimental
psychologist at UND, hope to expand their study on pesticide and
mental performance by testing farm children throughout North Dakota,
with testing year-round.

"We had a huge response to the study," she said. "The farm families
were massively interested in the study."

The study is an offshoot of a large epidemiological study that UND
researchers are conducting on chronic pesticide exposure and
degenerative brain diseases including Parkinson's, Alzheimer's and
multiple sclerosis.

"I'm not advocating that we get rid of pesticides, because they're
very important to farming," Moulton said. Instead, she advocates a
"happy medium," by using non-toxic pesticides whenever possible and
taking more steps to decrease exposure.

Copyright 2006 Forum Communications Co. Fargo, ND 58102