Women’s exposure to pesticides during pregnancy could impact the sleep patterns of their female children
According to a new University of Michigan study published in Environmental Research, a woman’s exposure to pesticides during pregnancy could lead to differences in sleep duration and timing for her female offspring during adolescence.
While chemical products used to repel insects in the home are the most common source of non-occupational pesticide exposure, exposure can also come from other sources, such as diet.
Our findings suggest that pesticide exposure in early life, before the child is even born, may have long-term consequences for adolescent sleep health. ” Astrid Zamora, a doctoral student at the University of Michigan’s School of Public Health, is the study’s lead author.
Other studies have looked at the impact of other chemicals on sleep, such as lead, but little is known about pesticides’ impact on offspring’s sleep, she said. Pesticides have been shown in the past to act as endocrine disruptors, blocking hormones like melatonin.
Because melatonin is important for sleep, “Zamora explained, “we wanted to see if exposure during pregnancy could be linked to sleep.”
The researchers used data from the Early Life Exposures in Mexico to Environmental Toxicants cohort, which has followed women in Mexico City for two decades, to learn how environmental exposures affect pregnant women and children.
They looked for two pesticides in urine samples taken from 137 women during the third trimester of pregnancy. Then, they did a sleep study on the children of the women during their adolescence.
Chlorpyrifos, but not pyrethroids, was linked to longer sleep duration and a later midpoint of sleep in adolescent offspring who were born to mothers who had been exposed in the womb to chlorpyrifos, but only in girls.
Although we typically consider longer sleep duration to be desirable, it is critical to determine the reasons for the longer sleep in follow-up studies.
Because the actigraph devices used to measure sleep can’t tell the difference between sleep and just lying still, it’s possible that girls who sleep for longer periods of time have trouble falling or staying asleep.
These findings are important to public health because pyrethroids and chlorpyrifos are still widely used in Mexico’s agriculture and may also be used in homes, Zamora said.
She says larger samples and studies evaluating unregulated pesticides are needed to better understand this association, as well as the underlying mechanisms that explain the sex differences.