A study published in the June issue of the journal Pediatrics looked at the connection between prenatal pesticide exposure and a child’s size at birth. By measuring pesticide residues in umbilical cord blood, the researchers found a link between prenatal pesticide exposure and babies with lower birth weights, shorter birth lengths and smaller head circumferences.
“The chemicals included in the present study are known to be environmental endocrine disrupters with the capacity to bind intracellular estrogen/androgen receptors and to alter levels of circulating thyroid hormones during pregnancy,” the researchers wrote.
A number of past studies have revealed similar associations.
For instance, last year Pediatrics published a study that found children with higher concentrations of pesticide residues in their urine “were more likely to be diagnosed as having ADHD.”
“It seems like, every other week almost, there’s a major study implicating a class of pesticides in significant human disease or harm to the environment or wildlife,” said Heather Spalding, associate director of the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association. “I do think it is raising concerns among the general population and expectant mothers in particular … but what is unfortunate is that it doesn’t seem to make a difference with policymakers. It shows the influence the chemical industry has.”According to the federal Environmental Protection Agency, more than 1 billion pounds of pesticides are sprayed in the U.S. each year. In Maine in 2000, the most recent year for which the Maine Board of Pesticides Control could provide figures, farmers and foresters applied more than 3 million pounds of pesticides.
In 2002, researchers at the University of Washington compared the urine from children who ate organic food with the urine from children who ate conventionally treated food. The results showed that children who consumed conventional food had six times the amount of pesticide residues in their urine.