Pesticides Ban Reduces Toxins in Pregnant Women

The Israeli government's ban on several varieties of pesticides led to a 40 percent drop in concentrations of toxins in pregnant women, research shows

A pregnant woman in Brazil, March 2019.
SERGIO MORAES/ REUTERS

The government’s decision to ban the use of a few types of pesticides seven years ago has led to a significant decline in concentrations of these substances in the bodies of pregnant women and their children.

The substances are poisonous for human beings, which people are often exposed to when eating fruits and vegetables. Exposure to these substances can damage children’s motor functioning and respiratory system.

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The reductions in concentrations of these pesticides was the topic of research called “environment, mother and child’ which checking the concentrations of these substances in pregnant women’s urine, found a 40 percent drop in the concentrations. In children there was a two-fold reduction in their urine.

The research was done by investigators for the Health Ministry, the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Hadassah Medical Center and the Center for women’s health in Ramat Eshkol, Jerusalem.

The results were published in the latest issue of the periodical Ecology and Environment and the International Journal of Hygiene and Environmental Health.

In 2012-2014 the Health and Agriculture Ministry banned 15 types of organic phosphates used mainly as pesticides which damaged the bugs’ central nervous systems.

Research in recent years have shown that exposure to low levels of these, substances can affect people’s hormone levels and that pregnant women are the most vulnerable, with the broken down substances often passing to their fetuses. Previous studies found a link between the breakdown o these substances and short pregnancies, low birth weights and head measurement. In addition, children were found to have poorer reflexes and poorer functioning respiratory systems.

The research was based on a follow up since seven years ago, with urine samples taken from hundreds of women in Jerusalem from the 18th week of pregnancy and babies in hospital post-delivery. Researchers checked the concentrations of the results of the breakdown of organic phosphates.

In comparison to similar studies in France, Holland and the U.S. The concentrations of the byproducts from the breakdown of pecticides were higher in Israeli women, who eat more fresh fruits and vegetables. Investigators found this was the first time a report of the existence of organic phosphates in babies’ urine and that it was clear the exposure was via the placenta.