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pregnant mother choosing pesticide free organic vegetables with young daughter at grocery store

Pesticides and Prenatal Development

Three new medical studies from April 2011 reached a similar conclusion:  common plant and household pesticides have adverse effects on a prenatal’s future cognitive development. The studies tested different types of pesticides, including organophosphate (OP) pesticide, otherwise known as organic pesticide, which is utilized on fruits and vegetable, and chlorpyrifos (CPF), which is a popular pesticide used to kill insects and other pests.  Nonetheless, not all insect pesticides pose a threat to a prenatal’s future development.  For example, DEET, a popular insect and mosquito repellent pesticide, doesn’t seem to have any adverse effects on prenatal health, at least when applied in the doctor recommended small quantities.

How did the studies measure prenatal exposure to pesticides?

The researchers took urine and blood samples from mothers in their third trimester to analyze increases and decreases, caused by the presence of either OP or CPF, of certain metabolite levels.

How pesticides affect prenatal development:

The studies reached the following conclusions about how OP and CPF adversely affects a prenatal ‘s future cognitive development:

  • Exposing a prenatal to OP risks a decrease in mental development at 12 months.  Additionally, prenatal who are exposed to organic pesticides exhibit decreased perceptual reasoning.
  • Prenatal exposure to CPF results in an average IQ deficit of 7.0 points, as well as a memory deficit when compared to their ‘unexposed’ seven-year-old counterparts.
  • Of course, overexposure to pesticides has been linked to childhood cancers, especially leukemia.
  • It is important to note that doctors have widely recognized for some time how vulnerable prenatal and babies are to pesticides and chemicals.  For example, doctors discovered in 2010 that premature infant inflammation was caused by phthalates, which are chemicals found in plastic.


While clinical doctors warn against taking any study’s findings as absolute, when three studies arrive at the same result, the discovery can not be ignored.  As such, the researchers caution against CPF’s continued usage for agricultural purposes, particularly when pregnant women are at risk of exposure.  Moreover, a pregnant woman must take the necessary precautions to avoid both OP and CPF, in order to ensure the future healthy mental development of her child.

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