Wesselink AK, Hatch EE, Rothman KJ, Willis SK, Orta OR, Wise LA. Pesticide residue intake from fruits and vegetables and fecundability in a North American preconception cohort study. Environ Int. 2020 Jun;139:105693.


Intake of conventionally-grown fruits and vegetables with higher levels of pesticide residue contamination has been associated with poorer semen quality and lower probability of live birth among couples undergoing fertility treatment. We examined the association between dietary intake of pesticide residues and fecundability, the per cycle probability of conception, in a preconception cohort of pregnancy planners. We enrolled women aged 21–45 years who were attempting to conceive without use of fertility treatment into Pregnancy Study Online (PRESTO) from June 2013 through September 2019. Participants completed a baseline questionnaire on demographics, lifestyle factors, and medical and reproductive histories, and bimonthly follow-up questionnaires for up to 12 months or until reported conception. Ten days after baseline, participants completed the National Cancer Institute’s Diet History Questionnaire II, a validated food frequency questionnaire. Using data from the USDA Pesticide Data Program, we classified fruits and vegetables as having high or low pesticide residues using a validated method. We examined the relation between greater intake of high- and low-pesticide residue fruits and vegetables with fecundability using proportional probabilities regression models, adjusted for potential confounders and accounting for consumption of organic produce. We restricted our analysis to 5234 women who had been attempting conception for ≤6 cycles at study entry, and further stratified by pregnancy attempt time at study entry (<3 vs. 3–6 cycles) to evaluate potential for reverse causation. Intakes of high- and low-pesticide residue fruits and vegetables were not appreciably related to fecundability in the full sample, or among women trying to conceive for <3 cycles at study entry. However, among women trying to conceive for 3–6 cycles at study entry, both high- and low-pesticide residue fruit and vegetable intakes were strongly inversely related to fecundability, indicating potential reverse causation bias. These results do not support the hypothesis that intake of pesticide residues from conventionally-grown fruits and vegetables is harmful to fertility, although non-differential exposure misclassification may have attenuated our findings.

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