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Pesticides and Child Development

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Three independent studies just published found that children whose mothers are exposed to common agricultural pesticides are more likely to experience a range of harmful effects to their cognitive development, including lower IQ, as well as impaired reasoning and memory.

The peer-reviewed studies, all funded by grants from the National Institutes of Health and published online in Environmental Health Perspectives, found links between delayed cognitive development and both dietary and environmental exposure to some of the most widely used agricultural pesticides. The studies examined individuals from a range of ethnic backgrounds, and those who lived in both rural and urban settings.

The lead researcher of one of the studies, Professor Brenda Eskenazi of the University of California at Berkeley, likened the effects of prenatal pesticide exposure to that of high lead exposure. Lead has been shown to disrupt brain function in young children.

So what steps can you take to reduce your risk of exposure? As this story from NPR suggests, go organic!

Dr. Chensheng (Alex) Lu of the Department of Environmental Health at the Harvard School of Public Health agrees. “Less pesticide exposure during the maternal life stage means less risks to your babies for a variety of diseases that will only manifest years later. Since women eat more during their pregnancy, one significant way to reduce their pesticide exposure is to eat organic foods.” Dr. Lu led previous research that found that pesticide residues, which show up in the urine of children eating conventionally produced fruits and vegetables, disappeared from children’s urine when they switched to organic produce.

By law, organic products must be made without the use of toxic and synthetic pesticides. Organic producers and processors must also keep detailed records from the farm to your table. In addition, they are subject to rigorous announced - and unannounced -certification inspections by third-party inspectors to ensure that they are grown and processed in a manner that you and your family can trust.

To read the studies in their entirety, click here:

1. Prenatal Exposure and Cognitive Development in Childhood
2. Prenatal Exposure and IQ in 7-Year Old Children
3. 7-Year Neurodevelopmental Scores & Prenatal Exposure to A Common Agricultural Pesticide