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Curl et al., 2019

Curl, C. L., Porter, J., Penwell, I., Phinney, R., Ospina, M., & Calafat, A. M.; “Effect of a 24-week randomized trial of an organic produce intervention on pyrethroid and organophosphate pesticide exposure among pregnant women;” Environment International, 2019, 104957; DOI: 10.1016/j.envint.2019.104957.


BACKGROUND: Introduction of an organic diet can significantly reduce exposure to some classes of pesticides in children and adults, but no long-term trials have been conducted.

OBJECTIVES: To assess the effect of a long-term (24-week) organic produce intervention on pesticide exposure among pregnant women.

METHODS: We recruited 20 women from the Idaho Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) program during their first trimester of pregnancy. Eligible women were nonsmokers aged 18-35 years who reported eating exclusively conventionally grown food. We randomly assigned participants to receive weekly deliveries of either organic or conventional fruits and vegetables throughout their second or third trimesters and collected weekly spot urine samples. Urine samples, which were pooled to represent monthly exposures, were analyzed for biomarkers of organophosphate (OP) and pyrethroid insecticides.

RESULTS: Food diary data demonstrated that 66% of all servings of fruits and vegetables consumed by participants in the “organic produce” group were organic, compared to <3% in the “conventional produce” group. We collected an average of 23 spot samples per participant (461 samples total), which were combined to yield 116 monthly composites. 3-Phenoxybenzoic acid (3-PBA, a non-specific biomarker of several pyrethroids) was detected in 75% of the composite samples, and 3-PBA concentrations were significantly higher in samples collected from women in the conventional produce group compared to the organic produce group (0.95 vs 0.27mug/L, p=0.03). Another pyrethroid biomarker, trans-3-(2,2-dichlorovinyl)-2,2-dimethylcyclopropane carboxylic acid, was detected more frequently in women in the conventional compared to the organic produce groups (16% vs 4%, p=0.05). In contrast, we observed no statistically significant differences in detection frequency or concentrations for any of the four biomarkers of OP exposure quantified in this trial.

DISCUSSION: To our knowledge, this is the first long-term organic diet intervention study, and the first to include pregnant women. These results suggest that addition of organic produce to an individual’s diet, as compared to conventional produce, significantly reduces exposure to pyrethroid insecticides. FULL TEXT

Donauer et al., 2016

Donauer, Stephanie, Mekibib Altaye, Yingying Xu, Heidi Sucharew, Paul Succop, Antonia M. Calafat, Jane C. Khoury, Bruce Lanphear, Kimberly Yolton, “An Observational Study to Evaluate Associations Between Low-Level Gestational Exposure to Organophosphate Pesticides and Cognition During Early Childhood,” American Journal of Epidemiology, 2016, 184:5.


Prenatal exposure to organophosphate pesticides, which is ubiquitous, may be detrimental to neurological development. We examined 327 mother/infant pairs in Cincinnati, Ohio, between 2003 and 2006 to determine associations between prenatal exposure to organophosphate pesticides and neurodevelopment. Twice during pregnancy urinary concentrations of 6 common dialkylphosphates, nonspecific metabolites of organophosphate pesticides, were measured. Aggregate concentrations of diethylphosphates, dimethylphosphates, and total dialkylphosphates were calculated. Bayley Scales of Infant Development, Second Edition-Mental and Psychomotor Developmental indices were administered at ages 1, 2, and 3 years, the Clinical Evaluation of Language Fundamentals-Preschool, Second Edition, at age 4, and the Wechsler Preschool and Primary Scale of Intelligence, Third Edition, at age 5. Mothers with higher urinary total dialkylphosphate concentrations reported higher levels of socioeconomic status and increased fresh fruit and vegetable intake. We found no associations between prenatal exposure to organophosphate pesticides and cognition at 1-5 years of age. In our cohort, exposure to organophosphate pesticides during pregnancy was not associated with cognition during early childhood. It is possible that a higher socioeconomic status and healthier diet may protect the fetus from potential adverse associations with gestational organophosphate pesticide exposure, or that dietary exposure to the metabolites is innocuous and not an ideal measure of exposure to the parent compound.

Lewis et al., 2015

Lewis RC, Cantonwine DE, Del Toro LV, Calafat AM, Valentin-Blasini L, Davis MD, Montesano MA, Alshawabkeh AN, Cordero JF, Meeker JD, “Distribution and determinants of urinary biomarkers of exposure to organophosphate insecticides in Puerto Rican pregnant women,” The Science of the Total Environment, 2015, 512-513:337-44, DOI: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2015.01.059.


Globally, human exposures to organophosphate (OP) insecticides may pose a significant burden to the health of mothers and their developing fetuses. Unfortunately, relevant data is limited in certain areas of the world concerning sources of exposure to OP insecticides in pregnant populations. To begin to address this gap in information for Puerto Rico, we studied repeated measures of urinary concentrations of 10 OP insecticide metabolites among 54 pregnant women from the northern karst region of the island. We also collected demographic data and self-reported information on the consumption of fruits, vegetables, and legumes in the past 48 h before urine collection and home pest-related issues. We calculated the distributions of the urinary biomarkers and compared them to women of reproductive age from the general U.S. population. We also used statistical models accounting for correlated data to assess within-subject temporal variability of the urinary biomarkers and to identify predictors of exposure. We found that for all but two metabolites (para-nitrophenol [PNP], diethylthiophosphate [DETP]), 50th or 95th percentile urinary concentrations (the metric that was used for comparison was based on the biomarker’s detection frequency) of the other eight metabolites (3,5,6-trichloro-2-pyridinol [TCPY], 2-isopropyl-4-methyl-6-hydroxy-pyrimidine, malathion dicarboxylic acid, diethylphosphate, diethyldithiophosphate, dimethylphosphate, dimethylthiophosphate [DMTP], dimethyldithiophosphate) were somewhat lower in our cohort compared with similarly aged women from the continental United States. TCPY, PNP, DETP, and DMTP, which were the only urinary metabolites detected in greater than 50% of the samples, had poor reproducibility (intraclass correlation coefficient range: 0.19-0.28) during pregnancy. Positive predictors of OP insecticide exposure included: age; marital or employment status; consumption of cherries, grape juice, peanuts, peanut butter, or raisins; and residential application of pesticides. Further research is needed to understand what aspects of the predictors identified influence OP insecticide exposure during pregnancy. FULL TEXT

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