11/09/2012 04:03 pm ET Updated Jan 09, 2013

Can Pesticides Make Your Kids Fat?

One in three American children is obese. Can pesticides be to blame?

This month, a new study identified a common pesticide -- triflumizole or "TFZ," sprayed on produce like apples, cherries, strawberries, certain greens, cucumbers, grapes, watermelons and more -- as an obesogen, according to Science Blogs.

What's an obesogen? Simply put, it's a chemical that encourages more and larger fat cells to grow, leading to obesity. Scientists are increasingly looking at the role environmental obesogens play in our battle with obesity; in fact, this month the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences will host a virtual forum on childhood obesity and possible links to environmental exposures.

Bruce Blumberg, the University of California Irvine professor who led the TFZ study, became interested in the subject after assessing rates of obesity in infants. "Since it is unlikely that infants are consuming more calories and exercising less than in the past," he wrote, "it is reasonable to hypothesize that the prenatal and/or early postnatal environment has recently changed."

What he found was not only that fat cell growth increased in mice that were exposed prenatally to TFZ, but that their bone growth was inhibited. And these effects were found at doses "400 times lower than the established threshold level below which no adverse health effects are expected to be observed," reports Science Blogs.

Scary stuff. And yet one more reason to avoid pesticides when you're pregnant -- and beyond.