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Invited Commentary
October 30, 2017

Pesticides and Human Reproduction

Author Affiliations
  • 1Arnhold Institue for Global Health, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, New York, New York
JAMA Intern Med. Published online October 30, 2017. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2017.5092

Pesticides are potent molecules specifically designed to kill living organisms. They include insecticides, rodenticides, fungicides, and herbicides. More than 600 unique pesticide chemicals and thousands of commercial formulations are currently on the market, and more than 450 million kg are applied each year in the United States, 75% in agriculture.1 Use of some highly toxic and environmentally persistent older pesticides such as lead arsenate, dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDT), and lindane has declined. However, use of newer pesticides such as the neurotoxic neonicotinoid insecticides, and the herbicide glyphosate—determined by the International Agency for Research on Cancer to be a “probable human carcinogen”2—has increased sharply. Glyphosate use in the United States has increased more than 250-fold, from 0.4 million kg in 1974 to 113 million kg in 2014, and further increases are projected as herbicide-resistant weeds continue to proliferate. Measurable levels of multiple pesticides are found in the bodies of nearly all Americans.3 Consumption of pesticide-treated fruits and vegetables is the principal route of exposure.

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