If you garden or even so much as own a lawn, chances are there are a couple of gallons of Roundup lying around in your shed or your garage. Effective as they may be in killing weeds, they may be causing a lot more harm than good. A new study has shown that ninety-nine percent of mothers-to-be in the Midwest are being exposed to glyphosate — a chemical contained in Roundup — and this may be associated with lower birth weights in newborns and a higher risk of admission into the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). 

The health concerns of glyphosate, a chemical found not just in weedkillers like Roundup but also in organic and processed food, aren’t sudden. A study carried out in 2018 by the same team discovered the chemical in ninety-three percent of pregnancies and found that it was associated with shortened pregnancies. Recent studies have also confirmed these findings. 

According to Paul Winchester. MD, professor of clinical pediatrics and lead author of the study, “pesticide exposure in pregnancy, especially in early pregnancy, can imprint DNA and alter gene expression, but little is known about how these chemicals can impact fetal development in humans.”

The study published in the journal Environmental Health was carried out by observing the pregnancies of 187 women with an average age of 25 years. The participants all lived in Indiana, known for its high risk of exposure. Urine samples were obtained from the participants in the first trimester (less than 14 weeks) of pregnancy to check for the presence of glyphosate.

Birth records for each pregnancy were obtained from electronic medical records following newborn delivery. All medical records were collected without prior knowledge of urine glyphosate results. Also, each maternal record was examined for pre-pregnancy factors and pregnancy health factors like maternal birth weight, pre-existing health conditions, substance use, etc that could affect the birth weight of newborns.

The result from the study confirmed the presence of glyphosate in ninety-nine percent of participants (186 out of 187). The result also showed a negative correlation between the participants’ glyphosate content and birth weight percentile. The negative correlation was found to be more pronounced in sub-groups of participants with a habit of tobacco use, opioid/THC use, or illicit polysubstance use. 

Findings from the study also showed that sixty-nine out of 155 infants (44.5 percent) born from high-risk participants were admitted into the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) after birth. 

“As a neonatologist, I’m seeing more and more infants with problems like low birth weights as well as mothers with issues like obesity or gestational diabetes. We need to keep studying these herbicides long term to find out how they could be causing these issues and what we can do to prevent them,” says Winchester. 

Although researchers hope to study glyphosate exposure in a larger population of pregnant women to obtain more conclusive find ensure conscious efforts to limit Roundup use; especially when pregnant. 

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