Here's a surprise. When a man and woman turn out the light and conceive a child, there's a whole lot else going on than the elegant merging of his and her chromosomes. In the mix: 300 manmade chemicals, some of which we know alter hormonal responses at minute levels, and some combinations of which may act on the body in ways we have yet to define.
That's according to the research of people like Paul Winchester, who was interviewed this weekend on NPR's Living on Earth.
His research focuses on one potential problem caused by one subset of the chemicals intruding on our love-making: pesticides. When pesticides are used widely on farms, trace amounts end up in the water. And if a woman conceives her child during the months when pesticide use is most aggressive, she is more likely to give birth to a child with defects ranging from spina bifida to cleft pallet, down syndrome and reproductive problems.
While the research doesn't prove that higher rates of pesticides in surface waters causes birth defects in children, it raises more than enough worry. One startling fact Winchester notes: At the time of conception, there is a mingling not only of a man's chromosomes with a woman's chromosomes.
Take-away message: Conceive in December, if you have the choice. And eat organic food so you avoid consuming pesticide residue -- and so your diet doesn't contribute to the flow of pesticides into U.S. waters.
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