It seems that the time of year in which a child was conceived can influence their future academic achievement, at least that's according to researchers from Indiana University.
To arrive at this surprising finding, researcher Paul Winchester linked the scores of more than one million students in grades 3 - 10 to the month in which each student had been conceived. Winchester and his co-researchers found that scores for math and language were distinctly seasonal, with the lowest scores achieved by children who had been conceived in June through August.
Presenting the findings at the Pediatric Academic Societies' annual meeting, Winchester speculated that pesticide levels in the summer may be to blame. "The fetal brain begins developing soon after conception. The pesticides we use to control pests in fields and our homes and the nitrates we use to fertilize crops and even our lawns are at their highest level in the summer," he explained.
Pesticides and nitrates are known to cause maternal hypothyroidism and lower maternal thyroid activity in pregnancy is associated with lower cognitive scores in offspring. "While our findings do not represent absolute proof that pesticides and nitrates contribute to lower [academic] scores, they strongly support such a hypothesis," noted Winchester.
Winchester believes his findings should be reviewed carefully by public health authorities, warning that officials should recognize that what we put into our environment has potential pandemic effects on child development. "We have now linked higher pesticide and nitrate exposure in surface water with lower cognitive scores. Neurodevelopmental consequences of exposure to pesticides and nitrates may not be obvious for many decades," he concluded.
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Source: Indiana University