An apple a day may keep the doctor away, but for your baby's sake, you might want to choose an organic one.
Everyday exposure to common pesticides during pregnancy may increase certain health risks for their babies, including preterm birth and low birth weight, according to a study published in Environmental Health Perspectives.
To understand the effects of organophosphate (OP) pesticides, a class of pesticides widely used on farms and in backyard gardens across North America, researchers measured levels of the pesticide in urine samples from more than 300 expectant mothers living in Cincinnati, Ohio. Among this group, researchers found that newborns of mothers with the highest detected OP levels were born, on average, about half a week earlier and weighed one-third of a pound less than babies whose moms had lower levels of pesticides.
These statistics may not mean much in otherwise healthy newborns, but for a baby already at risk for being born preterm—say, at 34 weeks—because of other factors, these slight reductions in pregnancy length and weight could make a critical difference, says researchers.
How to reduce your own exposure? It might not be as difficult as you think. Researchers suggest moms-to-be simply make the switch to eating organic foods, especially organic fruits and vegetables, because OP pesticides are not used by organic farmers.
A few more tips? When you see a Japanese beetle or two take up residence in your yard this summer, investigate traps and other natural means to control the pests, rather than synthetic chemicals. If you grow your own fruits and vegetables, try to incorporate more organic-growing practices, like using ladybugs to naturally reduce aphids on tomato plants. If you just have to use pesticides on your lawn or garden, check labels carefully to make sure products you use do not contain organophosphates.