Dr. Curl has been awarded a three-year, $457,537 grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to measure herbicide levels in pregnant women – specifically, glyphosate, an active ingredient found in many herbicides, including Roundup. There is emerging literature suggesting that in utero exposure to glyphosate and glyphosate-based herbicides may affect reproduction and may adversely affect developing fetuses. Dr. Curl’s research will attempt to quantify how much glyphosate pregnant women are exposed to and how that exposure is occurring.
Dr. Curl’s three-year research project begins this fall with the development of an exposure assessment strategy to determine the number of individual spot urine samples required to reasonably represent long-term exposure. This will be particularly important, since existing studies of human exposure to glyphosate are limited. Once an exposure assessment strategy has been designed, Dr. Curl and her research group will use this strategy to assess glyphosate exposure within a cohort pregnant women. Participant recruitment will occur during year two of the study; half of participants will be recruited from areas near agricultural fields treated with glyphosate, and the other half from urban areas. The researchers hypothesize that those women living near glyphosate-treated fields will have higher exposures than those in urban areas, but this remains to be seen.
During year three of the study, half of the women will be provided with a fully organic diet for seven days, and the other half will receive a conventional diet. A series of urine samples will be collected from each participant, and the analyses of these samples will allow Dr. Curl to attribute glyphosate exposure to dietary and agricultural sources. The data collected from these two groups of pregnant women will allow Dr. Curl and other researchers to understand the contribution of diet and residential proximity to agriculture to total glyphosate exposure.