Pesticides Tied to Problems in Assisted Pregnancies

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Eating fruits and vegetables high in pesticides may lower the chance of successful birth with assisted reproductive technology, according to a new report.

Researchers studied 325 women undergoing fertility treatment in Boston. They collected data on medical and lifestyle factors and had the women fill out food frequency questionnaires. Using data from the United States Department of Agriculture, which samples produce for pesticide residue, they calculated the amount of residue on what the women ate. A list of fruits and vegetables and their “pesticide residue score” appears in the study, published in JAMA Internal Medicine.

The 325 women had 228 live births. Women in the highest one-quarter for high-pesticide residue produce consumption had an 18 percent lower probability of pregnancy and a 26 percent lower probability of live birth than those in the lowest one-quarter.

The senior author, Dr. Jorge E. Chavarro, an associate professor of nutrition at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, noted that this is just one study, and it would have to be replicated before firm conclusions can be drawn.

Still, he said, “If you really want to eat peaches or spinach” — two of the most contaminated foods on the list — “it makes sense to switch to the organic version. The literature is not so clear on whether switching has health consequences. This is the first study to my knowledge to suggest that it does.”