Pregnancy is a time when parents-to-be become increasingly conscious of their food choices, environmental exposure to contaminants and critical of the substances they ingest.
According to a review by the Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering on Pesticide Use in Australia, one of the most widely used groups of pesticides in Australia is organophosphates (OP). This class of insecticides acts by irreversibly inhibiting acetylcholinesterase, an enzyme critical to nerve function in humans. Numerous researchers agree there is currently little data on the health effects of chronic, low-dose OP exposure. As a result, it is not surprising that an increased level of scrutiny is required.
A recent prospective, randomised, single-blinded, crossover study was conducted to compare the levels of organophosphate metabolites in the urine of adults after a week of consuming organic foods compared to a week of consuming non-organic foods. As expected, a significant decrease in pesticide metabolites was observed from organic food choices.
Interestingly, however, the researchers found OP metabolites declined by nearly 90% after 7 days, suggesting most ingested OP pesticides are metabolised and excreted within this time. These findings were supported by previous studies on children.
Although the pesticide metabolite levels were dramatically lower in the organic phase, residues were still detected in some samples. The authors reported there are several possible explanations for this, most likely including non-food sources of organophosphates. Based off these investigations, it is important to incorporate an holistic approach for supporting healthy pregnancies.