A new study has associated the exposure to organophosphate (OP) pesticides with decreased gestational age and lower birth weight.
OP is a widely used class of pesticides in North American agriculture.
The new study, conducted by Vancouver-based Simon Fraser University (SFU) researchers, finds that the decrement in birth weight for OP pesticide exposure was comparable with the decrement seen for women who smoke cigarettes.
Although the findings need to be confirmed, it again raises people's concern about the harmful effects of low-level exposures to environmental toxicants.
"For an individual child, a decrement of 150-gram reduction in birth weight is of little consequence, but this is just one of many risk factors that a pregnant woman might encounter," English.news.cn quoted Bruce Lanphear, the study's senior author as saying.
"If a woman has four or five risk factors, the impact can be substantial," he said.
The conclusions were made after studying a population of 306 women in Cincinnati, Ohio, which the paper's authors said is representative of the type of exposures most North American women and their children experience.
If these results are confirmed, they would help to identify OP pesticides as an important risk factor for babies being born too early or small, according to the researchers.
"It would offer us the opportunity to reduce problems encountered by many children who are born small or pre-term, such as respiratory infections, asthma, learning and behavioral problems," Lanphear added.