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Prenatal Pesticide Exposure Can Lower Kids IQ

How safe are your veggies?

Need more reasons to shell out the extra bucks for organic produce?

A trio of new studies appears to prove that eating organic really is the smart choice. Turns out, being exposed to pesticides in the womb can lower a child’s IQ.

The exposure doesn’t even have to be that high. These studies track normal levels of pesticides in women, and compared the development of their children as they grew up. Those with the highest pesticide exposure in utero scored lower on IQ tests, even after other factors like maternal education and home environment were taken into account.

The women whose kids were affected tended to have higher pesticide exposure than the national average, but they were still in what the government considers an acceptable range. In writing about the studies, TIME says the researchers hope the FDA will tighten its regulations on using pesticides for food crops:

The findings, say Rauh, should be enough to prompt the EPA to tighten its restrictions on pesticide use for food crops, given that certain populations who work in agriculture, as well as everyone who consumes produce, may potentially be exposed to levels that can lead to developmental problems. “The differences we found are potentially educationally meaningful,” says Rauh. “The differences could affect reading comprehension and learning in young children, and affect academic success in school. We don’t think anyone will suggest this type of exposure can result in extreme retardation. But we’re talking on average about slightly lower scores of intellectual development that aren’t trivial, and could mean a lot to a child.”

The food thing is key. How were women being exposed to these pesticides? Through their food, mainly. The researcher said that if you can’t afford to buy organics, you should at least scrub your fruits and veggies with a brush before you eat them. That will remove some of the pesticide residue. They also suggest avoiding the use of pesticide sprays in your home.

These methods do work. Switching to an organic diet measurably lowers the amount of pesticides in your body. Carefully washing produce helps too, as does (obviously) avoiding using pesticides yourself, especially the spray kind. While we wait for government regulations to catch up with the science, the best thing we can do is vote with our dollars: buy organic or low-spray produce whenever possible. You can also write to your representatives about these studies, and ask that the FDA regulations about pesticide use in food be tightened.

What do you think? Are you alarmed by these findings? Will they change the way you feed yourself, and your kids?

Photo: Martin Cathrae

More food for your thought: Babble’s list of Best Organic Baby Food!

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