Pesticides And Lung Capacity: They May Affect Your Child's Breathing (VIDEO)

First Posted: Dec 04, 2015 09:05 PM EST

Children who are exposed to agricultural pesticides early in life may deal with impaired lung capacity later on, according to a new study.

Researchers found that children exposed to certain pesticides had similar effects on their lung capacity as those exposed to secondhand smoke--even after accounting for other factors, including air pollution, mold, pets, smoking status of the mothers and lung health, according to a news release.

"This is the first evidence suggesting that children exposed to organophosphates have poorer lung function," study senior author Brenda Eskenazi, a professor of epidemiology and of maternal and child health at the University of California, Berkeley, said via WebMD.

During the study, researchers collected urine samples from 279 young children on five separate occasions--all between the ages of six-months and five years. They tested the samples for organophosphate levels during this time, as well. After the children turned seven, researchers tested their ability to take and release deep breaths of air.

Findings revealed that for every 10-fold increase in a child's organophosphate level, there was a decrease of about eight percent in the amount of air that the child could exhale, researchers say. Researchers believe that this may mean that children exposed to pesticides early in life may have a more difficult time being active--preventing them from getting the proper exercise they need.

The study highlights the dangers of organophosphate pesticides--putting them on a list of growing environmental exposure concerns that could damage the development of children's growing lungs.

What makes them so dangerous is that they damage an enzyme in the body called acetylcholinesterase that's critical in controlling nerve signals throughout the body.

The study is published in the journal Thorax.

Want to learn more about the health problem? Check out this video, courtesy of the University of California and the Berkeley Food Institute.

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