Pregnant Women and Young Children Are Particularly Vulnerable - Organic Trade Association
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Pregnant Women and Young Children Are Particularly Vulnerable

  • A study published in Environmental Health Perspectives found that the sons of women exposed at work to pesticides during pregnancy suffered impaired reproductive development. Specifically, the sons were found to have reduced penile length, testicular volume, and abnormal concentrations of various reproductive hormones. The study also found that female workers who were exposed to pesticides on the job were three times more likely to give birth to sons with cryptorchidism, a condition in which one or both testes are absent from the scrotum, than non-exposed female workers.
    Source: Environmental Health Perspectives, April 2008.


  • Research published in April 2008 reinforced findings that children who substituted organic fresh fruits and vegetables for their conventional equivalents had lower concentrations of organophosphorus pesticides in their urine.  The study, involving children ages 3-11 and conducted over four seasons in the Seattle, Washington area, supported findings outlined in the National Research Council’s 1993 study entitled “Pesticides in the Diets of Infants and Children,” indicating that “dietary intake of pesticides represents the major source of exposure for infants and children.”
    Source: Environmental Health Perspectives, April 2008.


  • Research has found an association between pre-natal organophosphate pesticide exposure and adverse effects on mental and pervasive development in young Mexican-American children from farmworker families living in the Salinas Valley of California. However, researchers cautioned that there might also have been postnatal exposure as well.
    Source: Environmental Health Perspectives, May 2007.


  • In a review study, researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health and the Mount Sinai School of Medicine examined publicly available data on chemical toxicity in order to identify industrial chemicals most likely to damage the developing brain. Finding that 202 industrial chemicals have the capacity to damage the human brain, researchers concluded that the toxic effects of industrial chemicals on children generally have been overlooked. To protect children against industrial chemicals that can injure the developing brain, researchers urged a precautionary approach for chemical testing and control, and noted that in the United States, requirements for toxicity testing of chemicals are minimal.
    Source: The Lancet, Dec. 16, 2006.


  • A University of Florida study conducted in Mexico found that adverse results from pesticide exposure can cross generations. Elizabeth A. Guillette and colleagues found that the daughters of mothers who lived near areas of heavy agricultural spraying may be unable to nurse their children. Sonoran Mayan girls whose mothers were exposed to chemical spraying did not develop mammary tissue necessary to produce milk, unlike their counterparts whose mothers were not exposed to such chemicals.
    Source: Environmental Health Perspectives (Vol. 114, No. 3, pp. 471-475), March 2006.


  • A paper in Pediatrics reports that overuse of pesticides and a lack of protection for female workers in Ecuador’s flower industry are associated with neurological impairment in their children. The authors led by Philippe Grandjean, adjunct professor at the Harvard School of Public Health, concluded that prenatal pesticide exposure may adversely affect brain development and cause lasting neurotoxic damage.
    Source: Pediatrics (Vol. 117, No. 3, pp. e546-e556), March 2006.


  • A meta-analysis of studies and the literature concerning the environment and cancer conducted by researchers at the University of Liverpool concludes that exposure to even small amounts of environmental contaminants such as pesticides may result in an increased risk of developing cancer, particularly for infants and young adults. Looking at involuntary exposure to chemicals such as organochlorines in the air, food and water, Professor Vyvyan Howard and John Newby recommended that efforts should focus not just on preventative measures such as educating the public about the danger of tobacco smoke, improving diet and promoting physical activity but on trying to reduce exposure to problematic chemicals.
    Source: Review article, “Environmental influences in cancer aetiology,” in Journal of Nutritional & Environmental Medicine, 2006.


  • A National Cancer Institute researcher who matched pesticide data and medical records in ten California agricultural counties reported that pregnant women living within nine miles of farms where pesticides are sprayed on fields may have increased risk of losing an unborn baby to birth defects.
    Source: Technical Report, April 2001, Beyond Pesticides/National Coalition against the Misuse of Pesticides, Washington, D.C. 


  • The Environmental Illness Society of Canada (EISC) has developed a 29-page report providing support for declaring a moratorium on pesticide use for cosmetic purposes. The report, which EISC presented to the Canadian House of Commons Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development, notes, “Pesticides have a cumulative multigenerational destructive impact on human health, especially behavior. Pesticides are a serious threat to the physical, emotional and mental development of children and future generations." Specifically: "Pesticides and other pollutants can interfere with proper sexual differentiation; they can also cause other birth defects and multigenerational health problems, such as allergies, immunotoxicity, neurotoxicity and cancer in the individual, that individual’s offspring, and subsequent generations." It added that a Canadian-USA study detected pesticides in the amniotic fluid in one-third of human pregnancies.
    Source: "Pesticides: Their Multigenerational Cumulative Destructive Impact on Health, Especially on the Physical, Emotional and Mental Development of Children and of Future Generations—Canadian Government Responsibilities and Opportunities," February 2000, Environmental Illness Society of Canada (


  • Research by Dr. Warren Porter, professor of zoology and environmental toxicology at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, and colleagues has shown that common mixtures of pesticides in groundwater are capable of altering neurological, endocrine, and immune parameters in rats and mice. The five-year study looked at mixtures of the widely used insecticide aldicarb, herbicide atrazine, and nitrate from fertilizers at concentrations mirroring those commonly found in groundwater. Researchers noted that this data and other epidemiological research suggest that such mixtures may have an effect on aggression levels and learning disabilities in children.
    Source: "Endocrine, immune, and behavioral effects of aldicarb (carbamate), atrazine (triazine) and nitrate (fertilizer) mixtures at groundwater concentrations," by Warren P. Porter, James W. Jaeger, and Ian H. Carlson, Toxicology and Industrial Health:15, pages 133-150, 1999.


  • "Pesticides pose special concerns to children because of their high metabolisms and low body weights. More than 1 million children between the ages of 1 and 5 ingest at least 15 pesticides every day from fruits and vegetables. More than 600,000 of these children eat a dose of organophosphate insecticides that the federal government considers unsafe, and 61,000 eat doses that exceed benchmark levels by a factor of 10 or more."
    Source: Food for Thought: The Case for Reforming Farm Programs to Preserve the Environment and Help Family Farmers, Ranchers and Foresters, pages 12-13, found at Original source: Environmental Working Group, Overexposed: Organophosphate Insecticides in Children’s Food, 1998, pp. 1-3.


  • In a May 2000 update to its 1999 report on food safety, the Consumers Union reconfirmed that pesticide residues in food children eat every day often exceed safe levels. According to the update, an independent analysis of USDA’s 1998 tests on fruits and vegetables found high levels of pesticide residues on conventionally grown winter squash, peaches, apples, grapes, pears, green beans, spinach, strawberries, and cantaloupe.
    Source: "Update: Pesticides in Children’s Foods," Consumers Union of United States Inc., May 2000.

Organic Trade Association, October 2008.

The Organic Trade Association is the leading business association representing the organic industry in the United States, Canada, and Mexico. Its 1700 members include growers, processors, shippers, retailers, certification organizations and others involved in the business of producing and selling certified organic products.

© 2008, Organic Trade Association.

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