Pesticides have been in the news for many years as a cause of a wide range of health issues. In areas known for high concentrations of pesticides, studies have documented negative effects on growing fetuses. All pregnant women should be aware of the risks posed by pesticides.
The degree of risk to the fetus is directly related to the amount of exposure. Some of the effects of pesticide exposure include neural tube defects in the baby and a higher rate of cleft palate. With higher exposure, the risks can include defects of the heart and limbs.
Exposure to pesticides is particularly worrisome in the first trimester. During this time, your baby’s nervous system is developing. The neural tube is forming and then closing. Many changes are happening quickly and the wrong chemicals can be very dangerous to the baby.
Two sources of pesticides are of potential concern to pregnant mothers: agricultural pesticides and those intended for home use. Pesticides in the home include indoor insect chemicals and pesticides used in the garden. The combined exposure of using both types can be significant.
There can be risk from pesticides used in agriculture as well. One concern is for women living in agricultural areas of the country. The exposure to pesticides can be considerable when living in an area surrounded by farms that commonly spray their crops with pesticides.
This exposure can be so dangerous that women may need to question the safety of remaining in the area. If the levels of pesticides are very high, relocating temporarily may be necessary. This is important throughout pregnancy, but most critical in the first trimester.
Women can be exposed to pesticides by eating fresh fruits and vegetables. Since a fair portion of your diet should come from fresh fruits and vegetables, you may be concerned about the pesticides that were used when the foods were grown.
Governments in the US and many other countries have banned the use of pesticides that are known to cause severe birth defects. However, there can still be residue on your food from these banned products. In some cases, the cause is imported foods from countries that may use banned pesticides. In other cases, residue can result from pesticide residue in the soil.
Washing and peeling can remove some of the pesticide residue. Organic fruits and vegetables are another option to avoid pesticides. There is some research to suggest that organic foods may be worth the additional cost. A study at the University of Washington showed that children who eat organic produce had a pesticide level in the blood that was six times lower than kids who eat non organic produce.
The best thing you can do to protect your baby is to avoid pesticides. Cancel the exterminator or at least get out of the house for a few days after it is sprayed. Avoid areas where pesticides are used in large quantities and limit pesticides in your diet. Eat organic produce whenever possible. If it isn’t available or you can’t afford it, wash and peel all produce to remove as much residue as possible.