Infertility & pesticides
Pesticide exposure in pregnancy has been repeatedly associated with numerous complications in pregnancy and children’s health. A very recent article, published in one of the leading medical journals in the world, continues to raise concerns about women’s exposure to pesticides in and around pregnancy.
In this recently published study, 325 women who were planning to undergo assisted reproductive therapies (including IVF), had a dietary assessment completed. Based on this assessment, women were divided into high or low pesticide residue consumption groups and the success of their fertility treatments was followed.
Researchers found that consumption of higher amounts of high pesticide produce was associated with a decreased probability of achieving pregnancy or having a live birth, compared to women who had lower pesticide intake.
So which foods are most contained with pesticide residues?
The Environmental Working Group is an organization that publishes the results of testing done by the U.S. Department of Agriculture showing which fruits and vegetables have the highest and lowest levels of pesticide residues on them after being thoroughly washed.
The most contaminated list is termed the “dirty dozen” (https://www.ewg.org/foodnews/dirty_dozen_list.php#.WnKMZSMZPBI)
and the least contaminated awarded the title of the “clean fifteen” (https://www.ewg.org/foodnews/clean_fifteen_list.php#.WnKMgyMZPBI).
To reduce pesticide exposure, it’s often recommended that all items on the dirty dozen list be consumed only if organic, or avoided if organic is not available. Items on the clean fifteen list are thought to be less harmful if conventionally grown produce is consumed.
While this is a great start, it’s also important to recognize that since pesticides have been in use for several decades, they are also present in the soil. These chemicals affect the quality of the soil and may also be taken up through the roots of plants and deposited into the flesh of the foods we eat. So, while selecting foods from the dirty dozen to eat organically is a great start, and a great way to ease into healthier food choices, eating only organic produce is worth striving for.
Chiu, Yu-Han, et al. “Association Between Pesticide Residue Intake From Consumption of Fruits and Vegetables and Pregnancy Outcomes Among Women Undergoing Infertility Treatment With Assisted Reproductive Technology.” JAMA Internal Medicine, vol. 178, no. 1, Jan. 2018, p. 17., doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2017.5038.