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The pesticides your children are ingesting

March
26

I’ve always wondered about organic food and whether I should make sure that’s what my children (and the rest of my family!) are eating.

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We only buy organic milk for the tots because I’ve always figured that the ever-earlier puberty dates and skyrocketing “average” heights for children just might have something to do with all those growth hormones given to cattle. Organic milk is more expensive, but worth it, we figure.

But what about the fruits and veggies? The cereals and snacks? It sure does get expensive and, besides, how bad can “regular” foods be? Everyone else is eating it, right?

So then I saw this (very) recent article from the Seattle Post-Intelligencer about a study that said, well, I’ll let you read it for yourself:

The peer-reviewed study 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.

I did some hunting around and found the original study — you can download a pdf of it here or just check out the abstract here. The Environmental Working Group, “a nonprofit environmental research organization” also did a study, here‘s the pdf.

The bottom line? When the children ate organic produce and juices, the pesticides basically disappear. Chensheng Lu, an Emory University professor and principal author of the peer-reviewed study, told the P-I the change is actually that fast, a matter of eight to 36 hours, depending on how much of the pesticides was measured:

Once you switch from conventional food to organic, the pesticides that we can measure in the urine disappears. The level returns immediately when you go back to the conventional diets.

I could go on and add more tidbits, such as the fact that the children live in an area with twice the national median income and that no direct links have been proven between the pesticides and “adverse health outcomes.” But just go read the whole article.

Being a native of Long Island, I’ve long heard the suppositions that all those pesticides used on the farms there before all those houses were built are the reason why 2 in 5 Long Island residents get cancer. Honestly, I don’t even know if those figures are correct, but when my friend told me that, a group of five of us, childhood friends, were sitting around, talking. We stopped, looked at each other and the truth dawned on us: two of the five of us were cancer survivors; one had thyroid cancer and the other had breast cancer (when she was 30 and had no family history).

Never mind all the other folks we know from elementary, middle and high school who’ve come down with cancer. And we went to a relatively small school — somewhere around 250-300 students per grade.

This NY Times article seems to debunk that tie, citing a federal study on the issue, but it’s hard to discount anecdotal evidence, you know?

At the same time, you can also get paralyzed with all the information is out there. And how much of it is accurate? And which is accurate? If an organization that funds a study tends to fall on one side of the issue, does that mean that study should be discounted?

Calgon, take me away!

I nosed around in cyberspace a little more and then found this article, which details “ten organic foods that are worth the extra cost” and how to properly wash them, as well as a link to a 2006 Consumer Reports report on organic produce and other organic food.

File photo, 2003, by Robert F. Rodriguez / The Journal News/LoHud.com of a woman shopping for organic produce at the Hungry Hollow Co-op in Chestnut Ridge. No, that’s not me!

This entry was posted on Wednesday, March 26th, 2008 at 5:42 pm by Amy Vernon. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.
Category: children's health, organic, organic food, organic produce, pesticides, produce

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About this blog
You make it, they eat it, right?

As most parents soon discover, feeding a family is rarely that easy, whether its nursing a fussy newborn or trying to get a hot meal into a squirming toddler (or attempting both at the same time.) And that's not even the days when work runs late, the main course burns, or your adventurous little sushi eater announces from now on she will only eat food that is pink.

As parents ourselves, we've been there, done that, even learned a few tricks along the way. And we're pretty sure so have you. Maybe together we can make eating together as a family -- gulp! -- fun again.

My site was nominated for Best Parenting Blog!

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About the authors
Hema Easley Hema Easley has been a reporter for The Journal News since July 2002, first covering municipal government and then nonprofit agencies, women's issues and the South Asian and Muslim community in the Lower Hudson Valley. In her previous job, Hema was a correspondent for the Associated Press in South Asia. She lives with her husband and two sons in Orange County.
KatieKatie Ryan O'Connor, a Journal News editor and 35-year-old mother of three, never quite appreciated the work that went into feeding kids until she had to do it herself as a mother. If she had a food-and-kids philosophy it would be something like this: try your best to offer as much healthy food as possible, but sometimes fruits just have to be counted as vegetables and there are far worse things than chicken and spaghetti. Again.
TraceyTracey Princiotta, a 37-year-old mother of one, loves to cook, bake and eat, and is relieved that her son appears to be equally willing to chow down -- even if it's baby food and formula right now. Despite her husband's intense aversion to vegetables, she has high hopes of nurturing a true chowhound who will try everything at least once. And if all else fails, she's not above sneaking veggies into other foods.
Marcela Rojas Marcela Rojas has been a municipal reporter with The Journal News since January 2003. She is a native of Putnam County and grew up eating Peruvian food. She didn't realize until she was 13 that rice did not come with everyone's meal. After several years of living in Los Angeles -- where she grew a fondness for Thai food -- she returned to Putnam County where she now lives with her husband and daughter. Zyla (rhymes with Lilah) just turned 1 in March and, so far (her mother is pleased to note), loves to eat everything.
Swapna Venugopal Swapna Venugopal Ramaswamy, a Journal News reporter, started her career as a journalist in 1999 after graduating with a master's degree from New York University. Before joining the paper in 2006, Swapna worked as a municipal reporter for the Home News Tribune in New Jersey, and took a baby sabbatical to care for her two children, now ages 7 and 5. She has currently outsourced feeding her children and husband to her mother, who is visiting from India. Her friend and colleague Katie O'Connor, informs Swapna that she wouldn't mind being fed Indian food by her mother, too.
Randi Weiner Randi Weiner has been a reporter with The Journal News since 1989, having covered police, government and schools in Westchester and in Rockland. An Ohio native and 1976 graduate of Bowling Green State University, she worked for daily newspapers in Ohio and Michigan before moving east. She has tended bar and danced in a beledi troup and sat on the boards of two community theaters. She plays mandolin with the Shamrogues, Connecticuts largest Irish band. Randi lives in Connecticut with her husband and has three children.

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