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Chemical used in farming found in pregnant women

Chemical used in farming found in pregnant women

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — A study by doctors at the Indiana University School of Medicine and elsewhere found a chemical used for farming in the urine of pregnant women.

The chemical, dicamba, is used to kill weeds in soybean fields. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, soybeans are one of the most planted crops in Indiana with farmers growing more than 5.5 million acres a year on average.

Phil Ramsey has been a farmer all his life. He has experience in using a sprayer to kill weeds in his fields. One of the chemicals he uses is dicamba. He tells I-Team 8 very strict rules exist on how and when farmers can use it.

“Most of us follow it very closely. I mean, we don’t want to harm our neighbors. We don’t want to harm our family. We’re out here to provide a safe food supply for everybody,” the farmer said.

Ramsey told I-Team 8 the findings of the study are puzzling to him because he can’t see a way for the chemical to make it into people’s bodies. “It’s always concerning when they kind of point the finger toward us because we’re doing everything we can to keep from that possibly happening, and there is other sources for that particular product. It’s used for spraying lawns.”

One possible solution would be to stop using the chemical, which would be concerning for Ramsey. “If they take one away from us, then what would possibly be the next one, and we don’t have very many of these particular type of chemicals to help us kill the tough weeds that are already up and growing.”

Dr. David Haas is spearheading the research into dicamba at the IU School of Medicine. Its research compared two groups of pregnant women. The first group was tested for the herbicide between 2010-2012. The second group was tested between 2020-2022.

“It was just under 30% in the original cohort before dicamba’s use started to skyrocket and now it’s 70%,” the doctor said.

Are those numbers concerning? “It’s concerning in the fact that there is bigger exposure. Now, we don’t know what that exposure means yet,” Haas said.

Researchers are worried the herbicide could be causing bad birth outcomes. “Pre-term birth, preeclampsia, gestational diabetes and stillbirth, those are the main ones that we’re looking at,” the doctor said.

The location of where the moms live was also concerning for the researchers. “They’re urban. They’re not living out on farms where you would expect the exposures to be going up,” Haas said.

So, researchers are also trying to figure out how it’s getting into the bodies of pregnant women to begin with. The doctor said, “The U.S. Department of Agriculture has done studies and shown the food residue for dicamba is really not that much, and so it must be coming from either dust that’s floating around, or our water sources.”

Haas tells I-Team 8 he wants to use the study as a springboard for further research to determine if dicamba in pregnant women is having any long-term health impacts for moms and their babies.

The company that makes dicamba, Germany-headquartered Bayer, attacked the study and the people working on it in a statement shared with I-Team 8.

“The dicamba levels reported in this publication are 0.02% of the safety limit that experts at the U.S. EPA established to protect human health. These dicamba levels are not remotely close to any level of concern and, if anything, just reaffirm there is no health risk. It should be noted that the co-author, Mr. Benbrook, has significant credibility issues and clear monetary motivations. Mr. (Charles) Benbrook, who is not a scientist or medical expert, has been a highly paid witness against our company in the U.S. Roundup litigation for years.”