Scientists at the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) called for further limits on human exposure to two chemicals following research on rats.
One of the pesticides, imidacloprid was associated with brain shrinkage, and reduced activity in nerve signals in newborn rats, while the other, acetamiprid led to reduced weight and reaction times.
The two chemicals are neonicotinoids, designed to attack the nervous system of insects. Three such pesticides are subject to a two-year temporary ban throughout the European Union because of concerns that they are harming bee populations, with major implications for the pollination of plants and crops.
Experts found that the chemicals “may adversely affect the development of neurons and brain structures associated with functions such as learning and memory," an EFSA statement said. “Some current guidance levels for acceptable exposure may not be protective enough to safeguard against developmental neurotoxicity and should be reduced.”