Residential Proximity to Agricultural Pesticide Use and Risk-Taking Behaviors in Young Adults from the CHAMACOS Study

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Background: Prenatal pesticide exposure has been associated with poorer neurodevelopment during childhood, which could lead to greater risk-taking behaviors and delinquency in adolescence. This association may be augmented by adversity exposure.

Objectives: Evaluate the relationship between prenatal pesticide exposure and risk-taking behavior in young adults at 18-years of age. Assess whether adversity exposure modifies these associations.

Methods: Participants included mother-child dyads (n = 467) enrolled in the Center for the Health Assessment of Mothers and Children Of Salinas (CHAMACOS) study, a longitudinal birth cohort set in the agricultural Salinas Valley of California. We estimated agricultural pesticide use within one km of maternal residences during pregnancy using a geographic information system, residential addresses, and California’s Pesticide Use Reporting data. We used Bayesian hierarchical regression to evaluate associations of prenatal exposure to a mixture of 11 neurotoxic pesticides with self-reported police encounters, risk-taking behaviors, and unique types and frequency of delinquent acts. We also evaluated effect modification of these relationships by adversity exposure.

Results: We observed generally null associations of neurotoxic pesticide use with risk-taking behaviors. Prenatal residential proximity to chlorpyrifos use was associated with higher risk of a police encounter, a delinquent act, and higher incidence of both unique types of acts committed and total frequency of delinquent acts. Prenatal residential proximity to dimethoate use was associated with a higher incidence of police encounters and methomyl with a higher risk of committing a delinquent act. There were no consistent differences when stratified by the number of adverse childhood experiences.

Conclusions: We observed mostly null associations between prenatal residential proximity to agricultural pesticide use and risk-taking behaviors at age 18, with little evidence of effect modification by childhood adversity. There were suggestive associations for chlorpyrifos use with having any police encounter and with all measures of delinquent acts that warrant confirmation in other studies.