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The results of the first ever long-term organic diet intervention study among pregnant women were published today in Environment International [1]. Researchers found that pregnant women’s exposure to pyrethroid insecticides was significantly reduced by adding organic fruit and vegetables to their conventional diets during the second and third trimesters of pregnancy.

Prenatal exposure to pyrethroid insecticides has been associated with poorer neurological and cognitive development in children. Diet – and in particular, fruits and vegetables – is among the primary sources of exposure to pyrethroid pesticides [2]. Consequently, reducing exposure among pregnant women presents an important prevention opportunity for the healthy development of children, starting in utero.

Genon Jensen, Executive Director at the Health and Environment Alliance (HEAL), said: “This study shows that consuming organic fruits and vegetables during pregnancy can make a big difference in lowering your pesticide exposure. Health professionals like obstetricians, midwives and paediatricians can play a crucial prevention role by advising future mothers during their pregnancy to reduce pesticides exposure by choosing organic fruit and vegetables.”

“Equally important, EU policy makers should address the hidden health costs of the current Common Agriculture Policy and choose to transition to food and agriculture systems that protect public health, future generations and the environment instead, and are accessible and affordable to all.”

Background

The study was conducted with 20 women who previously reported eating exclusively conventionally grown food for a period of 24 weeks. Participants received deliveries of either conventional or organic fruits and vegetables during the study period and collected spot urine samples every week. Samples were analysed for biomarkers of organophosphate (OP) and pyrethroid insecticides.

The difference in biomarkers of pyrethroid insecticides between women consuming conventional or organic food was the most significant:

  • Concentrations of biomarker 3-PBA (a nonspecific metabolite of several pyrethroids) , were 3,5 times higher in samples collected from women receiving conventional food compared to those receiving organic food.
  • Biomarker trans-DCCA (a metabolite of permethrin, cypermethrin, and cyfluthrin) was detected four times more frequently in women in the conventional compared to the organic produce.

The study results were not statistically significant for biomarkers of organophosphate insecticides.

Contact:

Yannick Vicaire, Chemicals and Health Policy Campaigner at the Health and Environment Alliance (HEAL), yannick@env-health.org

Notes:

[1] “Effect of a 24-week randomised trial of an organic produce intervention on pyrethroid and organophosphate pesticide exposure among pregnant women”, Curl et al., Environment International, 2019. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0160412019306853?via%3Dihub

[2] “Project TENDR: Targeting Environmental Neuro-Developmental Risks. The TENDR Consensus Statement”, Environmental Health Perspectives, 2016. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4937840/

For further readings, seeReproductive and developmental environmental health”, Giudice et al., 2017 and International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics opinion on reproductive health impacts of exposure to toxic environmental chemicals”, International Journal of Gynecology & Obstetrics, 2015.

HEAL is a signatory of a NGO platform calling for a CAP reform: 33 organisations call on the European Commission to put an EU food policy in place https://www.env-health.org/33-organizations-call-for-eu-food-policy-and-vice-president-for-food-open-letter-to-candidates-for-the-presidency-of-the-european-commission/