BEING SPRAYED WITH PESTICIDE – GETTY

New study finds link between miscarriages, birth defects, and weed killer

by | August 19, 2018

The  Ontario Farm Family Health Study conducted research on 3,936 pregnancies when Glyphosate (GLY), the most heavily used pesticide in the world was being sprayed, and the effect it had on carrying to term or birth defects that children may be born with. 

The study found that the higher the environmental exposure a woman had during her pregnancy, the increased risk of a spontaneous abortion. Of the 3,936 pregnancies, 385 babies were lost due to miscarriage. They also reported that the miscarriage rate was 18.7% in farm families, with a significant risk for preconception exposure to glyphosate.

birth defects

Similarly, in the heart of a farming town in Argentina showed to have the highest risk of miscarriage and birth defects directly linked to spraying pesticides, with studies on the soil showing a 100% saturation. The research was led by Dr. Medardo Avila-Vazquez, a physician who has spearheaded investigations into the health of populations exposed to glyphosate herbicide spraying on GM glyphosate-tolerant soy and maize and was carried out in the town of Monte Maíz. The rate of miscarriage in Monte Maíz over 5 years was three times higher than that reported in a national analysis conducted in 2005 for the National Health Ministry, and also higher than that found in a social health survey conducted in 2016 by the same team of researchers in a neighbourhood of Cordoba, according to the published paper.

In Indiana, United States, a study showed that women exposed to the weed killer had shorter pregnancies. The study that observed seventy women who were tested during routine prenatal exams exposed that 93% of the women had elevated levels of GLY in their systems, with the correlation of women who lived in rural areas showing the highest amounts. 

Birth Defects 

In Texas, a study showed that when the public drinking water was tested, it showed elevated levels of the pesticide. They then analyzed 18,291 cases of newborns born with heart defects and linked the residential addresses of the mothers at the time of their delivery with birth defects, with the districts that were tested for the herbicide, with the defects coming from the higher levels in the drinking water.

Similarly, researchers from the University of California, Santa Barbara, compared 500,000 birth records for people born in the San Joaquin Valley between 1997 and 2011 and levels of pesticides used in the area.

The average use of pesticides over that period was about 975kg for each 2.6sq km area per year.

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But, for pregnant women in areas where 4,000kg of pesticides was used, the chance of giving birth prematurely rose by about 8 per cent and the chance of having a birth abnormality by about 9 per cent.

Reporting in the journal Nature Communications, the researchers compared this to the 5-10% increase in adverse birth outcomes that can result from air pollution or extreme heat events.

“Concerns about the effects of harmful environmental exposure on birth outcomes have existed for decades,” they wrote

“Great advances have been made in understanding the effects of smoking and air pollution, among others, yet research on the effects of pesticides has remained inconclusive. 

“While environmental contaminants generally share the ethical and legal problems of evaluating the health consequences of exposure in a controlled setting and the difficulties associated with rare outcomes, pesticides present an additional challenge. 

“Unlike smoking, which is observable, or even air pollution, for which there exists a robust network of monitors, publicly available pesticide use data are lacking for most of the world.” 

Professor Alastair Hay, an environmental toxicologist at Leeds University said, “The sheer size of the study, and the meticulous way it has been carried out, suggest that there is an environmental hazard for mothers resident in an area with large-scale pesticide usage and that investigation of measures to mitigate exposures to the chemicals are needed.”

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Emma Williams

Associate Editor, USA | Contactable via [email protected]

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