How to Avoid Pesticides When You're Pregnant image 1

How to Avoid Pesticides When You’re Pregnant

There was a time when doctors told pregnant mothers it was okay to smoke and drink alcohol because their babies were protected by the placenta. Obviously, now we know that a “Mad Men” style pregnancy is not the way to go. But we’re still learning about how to protect our babies in utero.

A 2012 study found that exposure to pesticides posed the same risk in pregnancy as smoking tobacco: lower birth weight and earlier labor. The study subjects weren’t farm workers; they were exposed to pesticides through their everyday environment, just like most of us: Today, a conventional apple can contain as many as 56 different types of these chemicals.

Should doctors recommend women avoid pesticides during pregnancy as they do cigarettes and alcohol? I think so. But please don’t freak out if you’re pregnant and haven’t been eating organic up until now! Studies have shown that eating organic for just five days can eliminate many of the pesticides in our bodies. Start where you can, and do the best that you can do—that’s enough!


According to the Environmental Working Group, you can lower your exposure by 90 per cent simply by avoiding the most contaminated conventionally grown produce: peaches, apples, sweet bell peppers, celery, nectarines, strawberries, cherries, lettuce, imported grapes, carrots, and pears. Confused? Remember, the more delicate-skinned fruits and vegetables tend to absorb more pesticides; typically, you can peel off most of the pesticide residue. For all others, opt for organic whenever possible. When faced with the choice of a conventional apple or orange, choose the orange!

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80% of our pesticide exposure comes from pest-killing chemicals, according to the EPA. So pregnancy is a great time to get those out of your life! First off, get anything with a poison label out of your cupboards. Instead, try pesticide-free natural remedies like red pepper for ants, white wine and dish soap for fruit flies, keeping crumbs off of counters, pouring boiling water over weeds. These things really work!


During this time, try to avoid antibacterial soaps, which depend on pesticides like triclosan to kill germs. A recent study of triclosan at UC Davis showed the antibacterial reduced muscle strength in animals; researchers theorize this can also be a problem for humans. Another study, from the University of Michigan, found that the antibacterial triclosan may compromise our immune systems and make us more susceptible to allergies. And the American Medical Association warns against antibacterials like triclosan because they encourage bacterial resistance to antibiotics. Want some good news? Warm water and soap works just as well or better, according to the FDA.

by Rachel Lincoln Sarnoff,

Featured on “TODAY” and “CNN Headline News,” among others, Rachel Lincoln Sarnoff is a journalist, consultant and sustainability advocate. The former CEO of Healthy Child Healthy World, Rachel was the co-founder of the online magazine EcoStiletto and authored a spinoff book, The Big List of Things That Suck. Today, she publishes and is a partner at Give + Take Swap Boutique in Santa Monica, CA. This piece is adapted from her forthcoming eBook, The Mommy Greenest Guide to Pregnancy, Birth & Beyond.

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 DISCLAIMER:  The opinions expressed by Rachel Sarnoff, Mommy Greenest, and those providing comments are theirs alone, and do not reflect the opinions of Pregnancy Awareness Month (PAM) or any employee thereof. PAM is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied by Rachel Sarnoff or Mommy Greenest.  Consult with your own medical provider regarding your individual health questions or concerns.




chemicals and pregnancy, mommy greenest, pesticides and pregnancy, rachel sarnoff

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