We live in a modern world, in a world that has more chemicals and pesticides than ever before, and while they are not 100% avoidable, scientists have been digging deeper and looking into how these toxins are affecting our long term health, pregnancy and health of our offspring.
A recent 2017 Harvard Study observed the fertility outcomes of 325 women (with an average age of 35 years old) who undertook the Environment Reproductive Health Study (EARTH). The aim of the study was to discover if there was a correlation between the consumption of pesticides from fruits and vegetables and general reduction in fertility/pregnancy outcomes .
The study observed USA standard pesticide use in consumed produce, individual daily consumption of non-organic produce and the correlation between individuals having trouble conceiving and adverse reproductive consequences.
The study concluded that women who ate 3+ servings of non-organic produce were 18% more likely to have trouble falling pregnant naturally, compared to women who ate one daily serving of non-organic produce.
Interestingly the researchers replicated the results; finding that by swapping out the high-pesticide fruits and vegetables for low-pesticide produce (i.e. using the Dirty Dozen list and Clean 15), that there was an increase in pregnancy odds by 79%!
As well as having a reduced chemical load, we have also learnt that organic produce holds a higher nutritional profile when compared to its non-organic counterpart , suggesting that we can get more for our buck when choosing organic, eat seasonally and support local and small farming practices while supporting our overall long term health.
So where do we go from here?
While it can be quite daunting, it doesn’t need to be. The Environmental Working Group (EWG) reviews and releases an updated Dirty Dozen list each year. These are the foods that tested and shown to contain the highest pesticide and chemical residue – this is where you start.
2017 EWG Dirty dozen
Aim to limit / go organic for these foods.
- Sweet Bell Peppers (Capsicum)
(+ hot peppers (chillies))
2017 EWG Clean 15
Low chemical readings; enjoy seasonally
- Sweet corn
- Sweet peas (frozen)
- Papayas (non GMO)
- Honeydew melon
- Cantaloupe / rock melon
Reducing chemical exposure in our home and daily routine is another way to support fertility outcomes. Simple steps, such as removing commercial air fresheners, choosing organic cosmetics and beauty products and working to reduce plastic exposure can all help to reduce the daily load.
So what does this all tell us? Simply put, choosing organic produce and reducing chemical load during preconception as well as throughout the duration of the pregnancy, may support and enhance positive pregnancy outcomes! So head to the farmers markets and grab that organic fruit and vege, add the organic meat, grains and legumes to your shopping basket and get cooking!
 Chiu Y, Williams PL, Gillman MW, Gaskins AJ, Mínguez-Alarcón L, Souter I, Toth TL, Ford JB, Hauser R, Chavarro JE, for the EARTH Study Team. Association Between Pesticide Residue Intake From Consumption of Fruits and Vegetables and Pregnancy Outcomes Among Women Undergoing Infertility Treatment With Assisted Reproductive Technology. JAMA Intern Med. Published online October 30, 2017. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2017.5038
 Smith-Spangler C, et al., 2012, Are organic foods safer or healthier than conventional alternatives?: A systematic review’, Annals of Internal Medicine, 157(5), 348-66
- Environmental Working Group: https://www.ewg.org/foodnews/dirty_dozen_list.php#.WgONVVuCxhF
- Seasonal Food Guide Australia:
- Australia’s Sustainable seafood guide:
- Safe Cosmetics Australia