Pregnancy and Pesticides

Pregnancy and Pesticides

We know that all pesticides have some level of toxicity—some more than others and a synergistic effect when combined with other pesticides—but during pregnancy, the risks for the developing baby can be compounded. Why? During pregnancy, the baby’s brain, nervous system and bodily organs are developing rapidly and can be more sensitive to pesticides’ toxic effects.

Past studies have indicated that children exposed to pesticides while in the womb are at increased risk of being born with birth defects, can face developmental delays, and are more likely to develop autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) and ADHD. Likewise, this newer research points out that an expectant mother’s exposure to commonly used pesticides can create risks to the growing baby similar to those associated with tobacco smoking. The researchers point out that pesticide exposure can lead to pre-term birth, which one of the scientists says is “the single most important factor for infant mortality,” and adds that pre-term birth and low birthweight are also linked to future health problems such as cognitive problems and heart disease.

Pregnancy and Pesticides

Dr. Bruce Lanphear, a researcher on this particular study published in Environmental Health Perspectives about pesticide exposure—specifically organophosphate exposure, which we will get back to—says this of the pregnant women participating in the study: “This is not an unusual group. These are women exposed primarily through diet and perhaps pesticides used in and around the yard.”

That’s right. He says that these women were exposed to the pesticides primarily through their diet, which is another reason to eat organic.

Now, to address organophosphates . . . Back in 1962, the book Silent Spring was released—a book pointing out the environmental problems associated with synthetic pesticide use—and inspired a global environmental advocacy movement as well as what is now the Environmental Protection Agency. It was written by an American marine biologist and conservationist named Rachel Carson. The book also resulted in a nationwide ban on the use of DDT and other pesticides.

Additionally, Carson wrote about the “dangerous interaction of chemicals,” including how organophosphates such as malathion (an insecticide used frequently agriculturally and around the home) and others were 50 times more toxic than their effects added together individually. She pointed out that the “toxicity of an organic phosphate can be increased by a second agent that is not necessarily an insecticide,” such as plasticizing agents, including bisphenol A, or BPA.

She was ahead of her time. That information is 50+ years old, but recent estimates via the Harvard Medical School indicate that exposure to different types of organophosphate pesticides can cause a substantial loss of IQ in children. Likewise, prenatal exposure to commercial pest spraying can cause problems while the baby is still in the womb. In fact, data suggests that if mothers-to-be live under a mile from where organophosphate pesticides are applied during pregnancy, then the pregnant women showed a 60 percent higher risk of having a child with an autism spectrum disorder. Additionally, living near the spraying of pyrethroids, commonly found in home insect sprays, just prior to conception or during the third trimester of pregnancy increased the risk by twofold of both ASDs and developmental delays.

And get this . . . 93 percent of Americans tested by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) had metabolites of the neurotoxic organophosphate chlopyrifos in their urine. Chlopyrifos is a banned-from-home-use chemical linked to risks to children as well as to the development of ADHD. How is it possible to find this organophosphate in over 90 percent of Americans? Again, primarily through the food they eat.

Since our governmental regulatory structure doesn’t protect us from these chemical toxins that are being used, then it’s up to you to protect yourself. Buy and eat Certified USDA Organic—not only for your own health, but also for the health of your unborn baby, who can be especially vulnerable to the toxic effects of the pesticides.

If you want to know more about pesticide food residue, then go to It gives toxicological profiles for each chemical used on specific conventional foods.

USDA Organic

Learn more about USDA Organic

This information is intended for educational and informational purposes only. It should not be used in place of an individual consultation or examination or replace the advice of your health care professional and should not be relied upon to determine diagnosis or course of treatment.

EH Newsletter

Join Our Extraordinary Health™ Newsletter for the latest health news, recipes, fitness and lifestyle tips.