MARSHFIELD, Wis., May 17 /PRNewswire/ -- Low-dose exposures to
agricultural and lawn care pesticides may cause injury to developing embryos
before a pregnancy is even noticed, according to a study conducted by
researchers at Marshfield Clinic Research Foundation (MCRF), Marshfield, Wis.,
and being published in the May 2004 issue of Environmental Health
Perspectives, the journal of the National Institute of Environmental Health
Sciences, National Institutes of Health.
"In research conducted with mouse embryos, injury was observed during
laboratory studies with a variety of agrochemicals and lawn care products,
such as weed and insect killers and fertilizers, at concentrations previously
assumed to be without adverse health consequences for humans," said Anne
Greenlee, Ph.D., lead author of the article.
Types of injury observed included slowed embryonic development and
reductions in the number of cells comprising the embryo, both of which may
contribute to implantation failures and lengthening in time needed to achieve
Since it is impossible to define precisely the amount of chemical(s)
dangerous to an individual's reproductive health, a cautious approach seems
best, Greenlee said.
"Women considering or trying to conceive should make every effort to
minimize their exposure to lawn care and agrochemical products," Greenlee
said. "Applying these products according to label guidelines and wearing
protective gear, such as masks or gloves, can help reduce exposure. It's also
important to adhere to the length of time manufacturers recommend you remain
off your lawn or field after using pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers."
Greenlee, a scientist in Marshfield Clinic Research Foundation's National
Farm Medicine Center (NFMC), said her lab conducted the study because little
is known about residential use of pesticides and their possible effects on
embryonic development in the first few days of pregnancy. Her study used mouse
embryos to model possible human effects as embryos of different animal species
react similarly at this early stage of development.
Greenlee stressed the importance of additional work needed to validate
these findings for purposes of human risk assessment and to determine
relevance of lab results to pregnancy outcomes.
In this study, researchers examined 13 agrochemicals and lawn care
herbicides (weed killers) for their effects on embryo development during the
preimplantation period. The preimplantation period corresponds to the first to
seventh day of pregnancy, when an embryo is rapidly dividing and before
implantation occurs in the mother.
The study, funded by the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and
Consumer Protection (DATCP) and MCRF disease-specific research funds, examined
active ingredients in commercial pesticide formulations. Agricultural
chemicals studied are typical of those used in the upper Midwest. Lawn
pesticides studied are typical of those used throughout the United States.
Active ingredients tested included six herbicides (atrazine, dicamba,
metolachlor, 2,4-D, pendimethalin, MCPP); three insecticides (chlorpyrifos,
terbufos, permethrin); two fungicides (chlorothalonil, mancozeb); one drying
agent (diquat) and one fertilizer (ammonium nitrate).
Greenlee's manuscript, "Low-dose Agrochemicals and Lawn Care Pesticides
Induce Developmental Toxicity in Murine Preimplantation Embryos," is published
online at http://ehp.niehs.nih.gov/docs/2004/6774/abstract.html . Additional
authors are Tammy Ellis, NFMC; and MCRF Biostatistician Dick Berg, M.S.
Research published by Greenlee in the July 2003 issue of the journal
Epidemiology showed that women who mix and apply pesticides or apply
fungicides in the two-year period before trying to conceive significantly
increase their chances of infertility. In that study, it was shown that
infertile women were 27 times more likely to have mixed and applied pesticides
than women who had become pregnant.
The Marshfield Clinic system consists of 40 patient care and research and
education facilities in Northern, Central, Eastern and Western Wisconsin,
making it one of the largest comprehensive medical systems in the United
-- The general term "pesticides" refers to herbicides (weed killers),
insecticides (insect killers), fungicides (fungus/mold killers) and
-- Within hours of online publication, the Environmental Protection
Agency (EPA) asked to review Greenlee's data and publication for
possible inclusion in the re-registration decision process for 2,4-D,
one of the chemicals analyzed in her study.
Re-registration is required for pesticides initially registered before
November 1984. These pesticides must undergo a complete review as part
of compliance with the Food Quality Protection Act (FQPA). The
Re-Registration Eligibility Decision (RED) will summarize the risk of
the product as well as what can be done to reduce the risk to
applicators, workers, and consumers if the pesticide continues to be
used in the United States. Many commonly used pesticides fall into
-- Previous studies have suggested that exposure to high doses of
pesticides, such as those experienced by pesticide applicators
(professionals who apply pesticide to lawns, gardens and farmland),
may be associated with adverse reproductive outcomes, including
spontaneous abortion, birth defects and parental risk of infertility.
SOURCE Marshfield Clinic