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Researchers in France report that women exposed to detectable levels of the herbicide atrazine during pregnancy are more likely to give birth to smaller babies. Prior human and animal studies report similar results. This study is important because it focused on pregnant women. It also takes another step in determining whether atrazine exposure during pregnancy affects infant development. To do this, the researchers addressed the criticsms of prior studies and considered other chemical exposures that might contribute to the effects seen in the infants at birth.

What did they do?

The researchers measured levels of atrazine and 11 of its metabolites in the urine of 579 pregnant women. Each supplied one urine sample for the study.

Atrazine levels were compared to the newborn’s weight, length and head circumference, as gathered from medical records. The authors also asked pediatrician’s about the presence of genital malformations among the male infants.

Women were classified as directly exposed if atrazine or one of its four metabolites were measured in their urine. They were considered unexposed if none of the compounds were measured.

In addition, four other types of herbicides were measured in the women’s urine.