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Health & Pregnancy

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Pesticide Exposure in Womb Linked to Lower IQ

Studies Show Kids Exposed in Pregnancy May Also Have Later Problems With Attention and Memory

What the Findings Mean continued...

Toxicology experts, however, noted that several caveats apply to the findings.

The first is that while the association between organophosphates and brain deficits looks suspicious, and is biologically plausible, the studies can’t prove that the pesticides are responsible for the problems.

Most of the families in these studies were low-income and less-educated, groups that have been shown to be disproportionately impacted by learning and attention problems. Though researchers tried to tease out those influences, epidemiologists know that it can be tricky to completely eliminate their effects.

The second caution is that the studies were under way before the EPAs ban on residential use took effect, so it’s hard to know if the results are reflective of levels seen in homes today.

Still, researchers say that based on their investigations, a significant portion of the exposures was probably coming through pesticides eaten on fruits and vegetables.

“It is decreasing, but it is ongoing,” says study researcher Brenda Eskenazi, professor of epidemiology and of maternal and child health at the University of California, Berkeley.

The EPA is reviewing the restrictions on organophosphates to see if they are tight enough to protect public health.

Many feel the current regulations fall short.

“There are 10 million pounds of chlorpyrifos actually currently still being used annually,” says Rauh.

What Consumers Can Do

Experts say consumers can lower their exposure to organophosphates in several ways.

“These findings make it all the more urgent for people to buy organic fruits and vegetables whenever they can afford to do so,” Landrigan says. “It’s been very clearly shown, in studies conducted by CDC, that organic fruits and vegetables have 90% less pesticides than so-called conventionally grown.”

What’s more, Landrigan tells WebMD, “The CDC studies have shown that if people switch over to organic, the organophosphate pesticides are gone from their bodies in just a few days. These chemicals wash out quickly, and you can bring about change very fast.”

If organic fruits and vegetables are unavailable or too expensive, washing produce can definitely make a difference.

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