For pregnant women, in their first trimester, particularly in the first eight weeks of pregnancy, considerable effort should be taken to avoid and/or limit exposure to pesticides. During this early stage of pregnancy, a baby’s major organs are developing and thus are susceptible to chemicals and exposures that can lead to permanent defects. Specifically, pesticide exposure has been linked to birth defects and low birth weight.
Fruits and vegetables are common sources of pesticide exposure given the widespread use of chemicals to kill insects and preserve produce. Tips for reducing pesticide exposure include shopping at farmer’s markets to purchase certified organic fruits and vegetables. As well, care should be taken to avoid household exposure to pesticides commonly found in insect repellants, pet litter, and home gardens.
According to the Huffington Post, the Environmental Working Group, a non-profit research and advocacy organization, designated 12 fruits and vegetables as having the most pesticides. These include: apples, celery, strawberries, peaches, spinach, nectarines, imported grapes, sweet bell peppers, potatoes, domestic blueberries, lettuce, and kale/collard greens. These vegetables should be carefully cleaned by thorough washing and peeling and consumed in moderation, varying the amounts of each one, to avoid overexposure to pesticides on the outside and inside of the produce. As an additional precaution, it is recommended that the majority of fruits and vegetables should be consumed from a list of 15 safer choices, including: onions, avocado, sweet corn, pineapples, mangoes, sweet peas, asparagus, kiwi, cabbage, eggplant, cantaloupe, watermelon, grapefruit, sweet potato and honeydew melon. Even still, it is best to consume fruits and vegetables with peels that can be completely removed, such as bananas, oranges and melons.
Despite the risks of pesticide exposure, fruits and vegetables should be regularly consumed as an essential part of a healthy diet during pregnancy.