Pregnant women have a new reason to eat organic: babies exposed to pesticides while in the womb may grow up to have lower IQs and trouble focusing on tasks, three new studies have found.
The federally-funded studies, by researchers in New York and California, tracked environmental exposures in hundreds of women and their children from pregnancy to the grade-school years.
Children exposed to the highest levels of pesticide chemicals called organophosphates during pregnancy had IQ scores that were an average of 7 points lower than the IQ scores of kids with the lowest pesticide exposures. Every tenfold increase in a pregnant mother’s pesticide exposure meant a more than 5-point drop in her child’s IQ at age 7.
Organophosphates have long worried scientists and regulators because they irreversibly block an enzyme critical to nerve function in both insects and humans. These pesticides are sprayed on fruits and vegetables, as well as in parks and on golf courses.
“These findings make it all the more urgent for people to buy organic fruits and vegetables whenever they can afford to do so,” said Dr. Philip Landrigan, a professor of pediatrics and director of the Children’s Environmental Health Center at New York’s Mount Sinai Medical Center. “Organic fruits and vegetables have 90 percent less pesticides than so-called conventionally grown,” Landrigan added.
If organic fruits and vegetables are unavailable or too expensive, wash your produce thoroughly using a scrub brush.
Foods with the highest pesticide residues include strawberries, peaches, celery, apples, and spinach.