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The chemicals found in fertilizers and pesticides are known to adversely affect the human nervous system even at low levels of exposure. Neither the agricultural industry nor the EPA can deny scientific findings regarding the toxic qualities of organophosphates in the insecticide chlorpyrifos, but that does not deter pesticide manufacturers from selling harmful products. In fact, Dow AgroSciences, a pesticide company, states on its website that, “Insecticides, such as chlorpyrifos, provide important protection for our food supply and thus safeguard farm and consumer economy.” To understand the health risks associated with pesticide exposure, I studied the influence of organophosphates in the insecticide chlorpyrifos on children living in agricultural communities, primarily in Salinas Valley, California. I performed the review by analyzing a variety of articles and academic sources that focused on organophosphate exposure and child neurobehavioral functioning. The findings indicate that organophosphates found in the insecticide chlorpyrifos block the enzyme acetylcholinesterase and initiate the accumulation of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, leading to impairments in attention and cognition. Farm children exposed to the chemicals via the mother during gestation period or who are exposed through inhalation or physical contact may be at higher risks for ADHD and autism than reference children who are typically only exposed to organophosphates through diet. Further study is needed to understand gender-based effects following organophosphate exposure. It is only through understanding the damaging effects of chemicals in pesticides that policies can be constructed to effectively reduce pesticide application and encourage alternatives of crop rotation, intercropping, crop diversity, and the use of pests to fight pests in the agricultural society.

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Subject Major(s)

Public Health, Neuroscience

Current Academic Year


Faculty Advisor/Mentor

Mary Boyes


© The Author(s)

Organophosphates in Chlorpyrifos Insecticide: Neurobehavioral Development of Children in Agricultural Communities