Food and Behaviour Research

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Effect of a 24-week randomized trial of an organic produce intervention on pyrethroid and organophosphate pesticide exposure among pregnant women

Curl CL, Porter J, Penwell I, Phinney R, Ospin M, Calafat AM (2019) Environ. Int. 2019 July;  DOI: 10.1016/j.envint.2019.104957 

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Abstract:

Highlights

- Participants who received organic (vs conventional) produce had significantly lower biomarkers of pyrethroid exposure

- This was the first long-term organic diet intervention study, lasting six months during two trimesters of pregnancy

- Exposure was assessed via longitudinal biomonitoring, including an average of 23 samples per participant

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 0.27 μg/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.

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