Organic Trade Association's Organic Newsroom: Studies identify link between prenatal exposure to common pesticides and delayed cognitive development in children
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2011 Press Releases


Studies identify link between prenatal exposure to common pesticides and delayed cognitive development in children

Organic agriculture prohibits the use of these toxic and persistent chemicals

Contact: Barbara Haumann (802-275-3820;

BRATTLEBORO, VT. (April 22, 2011)—Three independent studies just published found that children whose mothers are exposed to common agricultural pesticides are more likely to experience a range of deleterious effects in their cognitive development, including lower IQ, as well as impaired reasoning and memory. Organic agriculture prohibits the use of these pesticides, and all other toxic and persistent chemicals.

“Less pesticide exposure during the maternal life stage means less risks to your babies for a variety of diseases that will only manifest years later. Since women eat more during their pregnancy, one significant way to reduce their pesticide exposure is to eat organic foods,” said Dr. Chensheng (Alex) Lu of the Department of Environmental Health at the Harvard School of Public Health. Dr. Lu led previous research that found that pesticide residues, which show up in the urine of children eating conventionally produced fruits and vegetables, disappeared from children’s urine when they switched to organic produce.

The peer-reviewed studies, all funded by grants from the National Institutes of Health and published online in Environmental Health Perspectives, found links between delayed cognitive development and both dietary and environmental exposure to some of the most widely used agricultural pesticides. The studies examined individuals from a range of ethnic backgrounds, and those who lived in both rural and urban settings. The lead researcher of one of the studies, Professor Brenda Eskenazi of the University of California at Berkeley, likened the effects of prenatal pesticide exposure to that of high lead exposure. Lead has been shown to disrupt brain function in young children.

“Consumers should know that organic practices prohibit toxic and persistent chemicals being applied on the farm. For those seeking to minimize their exposure to these chemicals, it’s worth it to seek out foods with the USDA Organic label,” according to Christine Bushway, CEO and Executive Director of the Organic Trade Association (OTA). “Label claims abound, but organic is the only system that uses certification and inspection to verify that these chemicals are not used on the farm all the way to our dinner tables,” added Bushway.

Organic production is based on a system of farming without the use of toxic and persistent pesticides and synthetic fertilizers. Organically produced foods also must be produced without the use of antibiotics, synthetic hormones, genetic engineering, and other excluded practices. Organic foods are minimally processed without artificial ingredients, preservatives or irradiation to maintain the integrity of the food.

To read the studies in their entirety, click here:

  1. Prenatal Exposure and Cognitive Development in Childhood
  2. Prenatal Exposure and IQ in 7-Year Old Children
  3. 7-Year Neurodevelopmental Scores & Prenatal Exposure to A Common Agricultural Pesticide

The Organic Trade Association (OTA) is the membership-based business association for organic agriculture and products in North America. OTA is the leading voice for the organic trade in the United States, representing over 6,500 organic businesses across 49 states. Its members include growers, shippers, processors, certifiers, farmers' associations, distributors, importers, exporters, consultants, retailers and others. OTA’s Board of Directors is democratically elected by its members. OTA's mission is to promote and protect the growth of organic trade to benefit the environment, farmers, the public and the economy.