Pesticides and Your Pregnancy
Risks of Exposure to Pesticides
A study in Environmental Health Perspectives found significant pesticide exposure may be associated with an increased risk of childhood blood cancers, like certain types of leukemia. The California Birth Defects Monitoring Program found that if pregnant women are exposed to household gardening pesticides, this may slightly increase the chance that their child will suffer from oral clefts, neural tube defects, heart defects, and limb defects. In addition, The Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine found that pregnant women exposed to pesticides used to control ants and roaches had a 70% increase in the chance of stillbirths as a consequence of congenital defects.
Tips for Pesticide Use during Pregnancy
- Avoid pesticides during your first trimester. Because your baby’s nervous system is rapidly developing during the first trimester, it is best to avoid exposure to pesticides.
- OTIS explains that direct exposure to pesticides (like mixing or applying the pesticide yourself) is more risky than low-level and/or indirect exposure. If you must work with pesticides, be sure to minimize your exposure by working in a well-ventilated area and using protective equipment.
- If the use of household pesticide is a must, have someone else mix and apply the pesticide. Remove utensils and dishes from the area. Open windows after the treatment to keep the area ventilated. In addition, remove yourself from the area during treatment for the amount of time specified on the pesticide instructions. Afterward, wipe down all food preparation surfaces.
- The American Pregnancy Association suggests that if you live near an agricultural area where pesticides are being used, you should remove yourself to avoid exposure to these chemicals.
- Consider natural pest control options. Control weeds by pulling them instead of spraying them and investigate natural pesticides.
- Buy organic produce whenever possible. Wash all fruits and vegetables thoroughly with a produce wash before you eat them to remove chemical pesticides. Also, scrub the skins of waxy produce like cucumbers, tomatoes, apples, and eggplant. Fruits with the highest levels of pesticide residue are apples, cherries, grapes, peaches, pears, nectarines, raspberries, and strawberries. Produce with the highest levels of pesticide residue are bell peppers, celery, potatoes, and spinach.
Don’t panic if you encounter brief, indirect exposure. Remember that long-term, frequent exposure to chemical pesticides is most likely to be harmful to your unborn child. Pest control can be relatively safe when you take the correct precautions.