Cynthia Curl, Ph.D.
Boise State University
Switching to organic produce during pregnancy can reduce markers of pesticide exposure, according to an NIEHS-funded study. Higher prenatal exposures to pyrethroid pesticides have been previously linked to poorer neurological and cognitive development in children.
Researchers conducted the first known long-term diet intervention study on the effects of organic produce in pregnant women. The researchers studied 20 pregnant women for six months during their second and third trimesters. One group was given weekly deliveries of organic produce. The other received conventional produce. The women completed a food diary and provided weekly urine samples.
Food diary data demonstrated that 66% of all servings of fruits and vegetables consumed by participants in the organic produce group were organic, compared to less than 3% in the conventional produce group. The women who consumed organic produce had significantly lower pyrethroid pesticide metabolites in their urine. The researchers did not observe significant differences for markers of organophosphate pesticide exposure.
According to the authors, the study demonstrates that it is not necessary to consume a fully organic diet to significantly reduce pyrethroid pesticide exposure. Participants reduced their exposure by consuming organic food as part of their diet rather than their whole diet, more like the way many people usually consume organic food.
Citation: Curl CL, Porter J, Penwell I, Phinney R, Ospina M, Calafat AM. 2019. Effect of a 24-week randomized trial of an organic produce intervention on pyrethroid and organophosphate pesticide exposure among pregnant women. Environ Int 132:104957.