Study Reveals Pesticides from Foods in Children’s Bodies
Results of a year long study report that government promises to rid the United States? food supply of brain-damaging pesticides aren’t doing the job.
The study, which carefully monitored the diets of a group of children in a Washington State neighborhood, found that the urine and saliva of children eating a variety of conventional foods from area groceries contained biological markers of organophosphates, the family of pesticides spawned by the creation of nerve gas agents in World War II.
When the same children were fed organic fruits, vegetables and juices, traces of pesticides were not found.
“The transformation is extremely rapid,” said Chensheng Lu, the principal author of the study.
“Once you switch from conventional food to organic, the pesticides (malathion and chlorpyrifos) that we can measure in the urine disappears. The level returns immediately when you go back to the conventional diets,” said Lu, a professor at Emory University’s School of Public Health and a leading authority on pesticides and children.
Within eight to 36 hours of the children switching to organic food, the pesticides were no longer detected in the testing.
The study has not yet linked the pesticide levels to specific foods; however, other studies have shown that fruits and vegetables including peaches, apples, sweet bell peppers, strawberries, nectarines, and cherries most frequently have detectable levels of pesticides, among others.
He points out that there is no certainty that the pesticides measured in this group of children would cause any adverse health outcomes. Lu says more research must be done to study what harm these pesticides may do to children, even at the low levels found on food.
While some parents might want to switch their children to an all organic diet due to these findings, Lu cautions not to be hasty.
“It is vital for children to consume significantly more fresh fruits and vegetables than is commonly the case today,” he says, citing such problems as juvenile diabetes and obesity.
“Nor is our purpose to promote the consumption of organic food, although our data clearly demonstrate that food grown organically contains far less pesticide residues.”
Lu says an all-organic diet is not necessary. Instead, he says that consumers ?should be encouraged to buy produce direct from the farmers they know. These need not be just organic farmers, but conventional growers who minimize their use of pesticides.?
In addition, understanding how fruits and vegetables grow can help in making smart choices. For example, organic strawberries are probably a wise choice because they are a tender-fleshed fruit that is grown close to the ground, so more pesticides are needed to fight insects and bugs from the soil. Apples and spinach are also smart to buy organic, he says.
Check out the Green Guide for the 10 most important foods to purchase organic.
The study was published online in Environmental Health Perspectives. Click here for the full report.