Pesticide Residue Could Reduce Fertility Treatment Effectiveness: Study

Eating fruits and vegetables that were exposed to high levels of pesticides may lower a woman’s chances of conceiving a baby, according to the findings of new research.¬†

In a study published this week in the medical journal JAMA Internal Medicine, Harvard researchers warn that there may be a link between fertility and pesticide residue on fruits and vegetables.

To assess the risks associated with pesticide exposure, researchers focused on 325 women between the ages of 18 and 45 undergoing infertility treatment with assisted reproductive technology (ART) at Massachusetts General Hospital. The women completed a diet assessment, focusing on fruits and vegetable consumption. They also underwent 541 ART cycles in the Environment and Reproductive Health (EARTH) prospective cohort study from 2007 to 2016.

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Compared to women who had less than one serving per day of high pesticide fruits and vegetables, women who ate two or more servings per day had 18% decreased risk of getting pregnant. Those women also had 26% lower chance of giving birth to a live baby.

Overall, researchers said there was a lower chance of pregnancy and a higher chance of pregnancy loss.

Pesticides are chemicals used to kill bugs, weeds, rodents, mold, and fungi on fruits and vegetables. Recent research links pesticide exposure during childhood to higher risks of cancer, increased risk of developing autism and other developmental delays, increased incidence of breathing problems and reduced lung function, and higher risk of genital birth defects in boys exposed during fetal development stages of pregnancy.

In this study, high intake of pesticide residue from fruits and vegetables was linked to a higher probability of losing a pregnancy and low intake of pesticide residue was not associated with pregnancy loss.

The study did have limitations, as the women were already undergoing fertility treatments. That alone can indicate underlying mechanisms that may be affecting her fertility.

Researchers note that the study does not show pesticides cause infertility issues, but rather that there may be a link between the two. More research is needed to prove cause and effect.

Recently a petition submitted to the EPA called for federal environmental regulators to test ingredients used in pesticides for potential harm to humans. Yet, a bill recently passed by the House of Representatives would allow more pesticides to be sprayed over bodies of water.

The majority of Americans are exposed to pesticides everyday by eating conventionally grown fruits and vegetables, and pesticides are found in half of all food in the U.S. Some fruits and vegetables are worse than others.

Researchers of the new study indicated avocados, onions, dried plums or prunes, corn, and orange juice often have low levels of pesticides. Comparatively, fresh plums, peaches, nectarines, cherries, apples, strawberries, spinach, and peppers typically have high levels of pesticides.


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