We know herbicide use on Midwestern corn and soybean farms has about doubled since around 2003 because of the spread of weeds that have become resistant to one or more herbicides.
Three herbicides account for most of the growth in total pounds of herbicide active ingredient applied — glyphosate (aka Roundup), dicamba, and 2,4-D.
Unfortunately for farmers and the environment, overall herbicide use in the Heartland has been rising sharply for a decade, with no end in sight in year-to-year increases over the next 10 to 20 years.
Glyphosate is by far the most heavily applied herbicide in the Midwest, accounting for over one-half of total use. It has been classified by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) as a probable human carcinogen.
Dicamba and 2,4-D are the two herbicides for which total use in the Midwest is rising the most rapidly. Both are classified by IARC as possible human carcinogens.
When pregnant women, infants, and children are exposed to these three herbicides, either singly or in combination, the risk of reproductive problems, birth defects, and developmental abnormalities rises.
These accepted — and worrisome — facts led the Heartland Study team to search for an answer to an important question:
Are contemporary herbicide exposures among pregnant women, and as infants mature, triggering more frequent and/or more severe adverse birth and developmental outcomes across the Midwest?
We found no answer. Even more worrisome, we are aware of no systematic effort to find an answer. And so we designed a study of sufficient scope and statistical power to, we hope, to answer the questions we were all asking.
In recent years, federal funding has been cut dramatically across the board for vital, long-term children’s health research.
There is little chance, at least in the near term, for meaningful increases in federal support for rigorous, clinically-based children’s health and development research.
Hence, the Heartland Study’s near-term reliance on public donations and philanthropic support.
To the best of our knowledge, there has never been a pesticide-focused, hospital-based study of the scale of the Heartland Study conducted with private funding anywhere in the world.
Likewise, no study as ever been conducted in a human population assessing the epigenetic impacts of prenatal chemical exposures (in our case, exposures to herbicides).
The Heartland Study is the first clinically-based research project designed to identify the impact of cumulative herbicide exposures on birth outcomes, as well as the unique contribution of individual herbicides.
Why 2,000 MIPs?
Accomplishing our cutting-edge scientific goals will require our collaborating hospitals to enroll and move a large number of mother-infant pairs (MIPs) through the four-year Heartland Study protocol.
We hope to enroll at least 2,000 MIPs — an ambitious and costly goal, but one essential in order to increase the statistical power of the Heartland Study.
Why is “statistical power” important?
The statistical power of a human health, epidemiological study is driven by its sample size — the number of people enrolled.
The more people in a study, the greater the chance that low-probability events will be reliably detected, or ruled out. Such “events” include rare birth defects, unusual developmental abnormalities, and other adverse birth outcomes or reproductive problems.
This is why we need private donations, and from many, many people. Please join those already supporting the Heartland study by clicking the link Support the Study!