Lessons from the Fields

by Anna Lappé with the University of California for Slate

California’s 90-mile-long Salinas Valley, with its mild climate and rich soil, is known for abundant agriculture. Often called the “salad bowl of the world,” this fertile valley two hours south of the San Francisco Bay Area produces 70 percent of the nation’s lettuce, along with bountiful strawberries, broccoli and other cool-weather crops. But pioneering research from University of California at Berkeley, in partnership with the community in Salinas, has revealed some dire consequences from the use of chemical pesticides in the region.

At the Source: Studying Pregnant Women

Researchers connected with the community to complete the comprehensive study, and they’re staying connected to help find solutions.

The study began in 1999 when UC Berkeley scientist Dr. Brenda Eskenazi and her team enrolled more than 600 pregnant women to assess their environmental exposure to pesticides through blood and urine samples. They also planned to follow the women’s children as they grew, assessing health, learning and development.

Known as CHAMACOS, an acronym for the Center for the Health Assessment of Mothers and Children of Salinas, the study is a prospective birth cohort study. By measuring the pregnant mother’s exposure, researchers track the fetus’ exposure, too.


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Photo: Paolo Vescia


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