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Background: Studies have documented independent adverse associations between prenatal and early-life exposure to environmental chemicals and social adversity with child neurodevelopment; however, few have considered these exposures jointly. The objective of this analysis is to examine whether associations of pesticide mixtures and adolescent neurobehavioral development are modified by early-life adversity in the Center for the Health Assessment of Mothers and Children of Salinas (CHAMACOS) cohort.

Methods: We used linear mixed effects Bayesian Hierarchical Models (BHM) to examine the joint effect of applications of 11 agricultural pesticides within 1 km of maternal homes during pregnancy and youth-reported Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) with maternal and youth-reported internalizing behaviors, hyperactivity, and attention problems assessed via the Behavior Assessment for Children (BASC) (mean = 50, standard deviation = 10) at ages 16 and 18 years (n = 458).

Results: The median (25th-75th percentiles) of ACEs was 1 (0–3); 72.3% of participants had low ACEs (0–2 events) and 27.7% had ACEs (3+ events). Overall, there was little evidence of modification of exposure-outcome associations by ACEs. A two-fold increase in malathion use was associated with increased internalizing behaviors among those with high ACEs from both maternal- (β = 1.9; 95% Credible Interval (CrI): 0.2, 3.7 for high ACEs vs. β = − 0.1; 95% CrI: 1.2, 0.9 for low ACEs) and youth-report (β = 2.1; 95% CrI: 0.4, 3.8 for high ACEs vs. β = 0.2; 95% CrI: 0.8, 1.2 for low ACEs). Applications of malathion and dimethoate were also associated with higher youth-reported hyperactivity and/or inattention among those with high ACEs.

Conclusion: We observed little evidence of effect modification of agricultural pesticide use near the home during pregnancy and adolescent behavioral problems by child ACEs. Future studies should examine critical windows of susceptibility of exposure to chemical and non-chemical stressors and should consider biomarker-based exposure assessment methods.


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Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.