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expert reaction to study investigating association between exposure to pesticide residues on fruit and veg and pregnancy outcomes in women undergoing IVF

New research, published in JAMA Internal Medicine, examines the association of preconception intake of pesticide residues in fruits and vegetables with outcomes of infertility treatment with assisted reproductive technologies.


Prof. Jean Golding, Emeritus Professor of Paediatric and Perinatal Epidemiology, University of Bristol, said:

“This is an interesting study from America which may provide a hint as to why some women have early miscarriages. However there are a number of uncertainties. The research makes assumptions as to the amount of pesticides each woman is exposed to on the basis of the types of fruit and vegetables she eats, and the average concentrations of pesticides in each as published in the USA. A certain amount of attention is paid to whether or not she chooses organic produce.

“Although the results show that women with difficulty in conceiving are more likely to have a successful pregnancy if they have a lower exposure to pesticides, the results are suggestive at best. They do, however, point to the need for more coherent research on effects of pesticides on the ability to have a successful pregnancy. In the future detailed research is needed whereby the actual amount of pesticides consumed are measured in the mother’s blood or urine. Hopefully this paper can provide the impetus for such studies.”


Prof Sir Colin Berry, Emeritus Professor of Pathology, Queen Mary University London (QMUL), said:

“There are three points worth highlighting about this study, First of all, the intake of pesticides was only estimated and not measured. Secondly, ‘pesticides’ are a wide group of compounds with widely differing routes of metabolism, and the different classes are handled very differently by the human body. Measuring an association between pregnancy outcomes and all pesticides is not very informative and it would have been better if the different types could have at least been separated into pesticide, fungicide, and rodenticide exposure. Finally, the confidence intervals reported are very wide suggesting that these results are not very robust.”


* ‘Association Between Pesticide Residue Intake From Consumption of Fruits and Vegetables and Pregnancy Outcomes Among Women Undergoing Infertility Treatment With Assisted Reproductive Technology’ by Chui et al. published in JAMA Internal Medicine at on Monday 30th October. 


Declared interests

Prof. Jean Golding: No conflicts of interest.

Prof Sir Colin Berry: “Sir Colin consults for a number of agrochemical and pharmaceutical companies and for the MHRA. He is advises the European Risk Forum.”


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