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The pesticides your children are ingesting


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.


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