Pregnant? Put Down the Pesticide

<a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/carolinaturck/2418906482/sizes/m/in/photostream/">Carolina Turck</a>/Flickr


Exposure to pesticides while pregnant can cause women to give birth earlier, and to have smaller babies, according to a new study in Environmental Health Perspectives.

The study found that the expectant women exposed to organophosphate insecticides were more likely to give birth a few days earlier, and their babies weighed at least a third of a pound less at birth. These are the most common type of pesticides used around the world. And as Huffington Post reporter Lynne Peeples notes that these weren’t women working in agriculture or lawn care, who might be exposed to large amounts of the pesticides—they were just your average pregnant ladies:

“This is not an unusual group,” said Dr. Bruce Lanphear, about the women who were studied. “These are women exposed primarily through diet and perhaps pesticides used in and around the yard,” said Lanphear, a researcher on the study of organophosphate pesticide exposure published Thursday in Environmental Health Perspectives.

Nearly all pregnant women carry pesticide residues in their bodies. The new study’s 306 expectant moms — from a diverse range of economic and racial groups and from urban, suburban and rural areas in and around Cincinnati — were no exception.

This is bad news for babies, as preterm birth is a major factor in infant mortality, and being born at lower weights is linked to long-term health concerns like delayed development or learning disabilities.

Fact:

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  • Kate Sheppard was a staff reporter in Mother Jones' Washington bureau from 2009 to 2013. She is now a senior reporter and the energy and environment editor at The Huffington Post. She can be reached by email at kate (dot) sheppard (at) huffingtonpost (dot) com and you can follow her on Twitter @kate_sheppard.