Pesticides in our food

Pesticides are designed to kill bugs, often by destroying their nervous systems. So you wouldn’t sit down and eat a bowl of pesticide, would you?

But most Americans eat pesticides every day. (Eating organic is wonderful but expensive and not always feasible.)

And there’s increasing evidence that the pesticide residue we’re consuming is harming us, esp. our children. Here are some stories about a recent study conducted by the University of Montreal and Harvard University.

“Study links ADHD and pesticides”:

According to a study published in the journal Pediatrics, kids with higher-than-average levels of pesticides in their urine were almost two times more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD. Maryse F. Bouchard, a researcher at the University of Montreal in Quebec and lead author of the study, called the link “fairly significant,” and suggested that parents should “buy as much organic as possible,” and wash produce thoroughly.

“Pesticides and ADHD”:

A new study in the journal Pediatrics associates ingestion of pesticides commonly found on conventionally-grown fruits and vegetables with ADHD in children. In the U.S. 4.5 million children ages 5 to 17 have been diagnosed with ADHD, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

…Many of the chemicals we use on our foods were developed during WWII as nerve toxins to be used in warfare.

Unfortunately many of the fruits and vegetables that children enjoy are on the Environmental Working Group’s Dirty Dozen list. Foods such as strawberries, celery, potatoes, blueberries, apples, peaches and spinach rank high in pesticide contamination.

“ADHD, children’s brains and pesticides”:

According to lead author of the a recent study connecting pesticides and children’s' brains, Maryse Bouchard, PhD, organophosphates are “designed” to have toxic effects on the nervous system because, “That’s how they kill pests.“ Organophosphates are the basis of nerve gas, plastic solvents and pesticides. The pesticides act on a set of brain chemicals closely related to those involved in ADHD, Bouchard explains, “so it seems plausible that exposure to organophosphates could be associated with ADHD-like symptoms.”

“I am very confident in the correlation in this study, because we controlled for quite a few things that we thought could play a role,” says Bouchard. “Adjusting for those things did not change the results very much. Which indicates that there is very little potential for confounding in this association between pesticides and ADHD.”

…In this study over 1,000 children, ages 8-15 from all over the US had the levels of pesticides tested. Those with above average exposure had double the odds of an ADHD diagnosis.

“ADHD In Children: PESTICIDES May Be Missing Link”:

“I would take it quite seriously,” said Virginia Rauh of Columbia University, who has studied prenatal exposure to pesticides and wasn’t involved in the new study….

In the body, pesticides break down into compounds that can be measured in urine. Almost universally, the study found detectable levels: The compounds turned up in the urine of 94 percent of the children.

The kids with higher levels had increased chances of having ADHD, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, a common problem that causes students to have trouble in school….

A 2008 Emory University study found that in children who switched to organically grown fruits and vegetables, urine levels of pesticide compounds dropped to undetectable or close to undetectable levels….

“This is a well conducted study,” said Dr. Lynn Goldman of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and a former EPA administrator.

What can a concerned parent (or eater) do? US News & World Report suggests:

  1. Buy organic versions of foods that, when not grown organically, are most likely to be grown using pesticides. These include celery, peaches, strawberries, apples, and blueberries. Corn, peas, and asparagus are usually low in pesticide residue, even when grown conventionally. The Environmental Working Group, an environmental advocacy group, has compiled a list of pesticide residues on fruits and vegetables
  2. Detoxify your lawn and garden.

Posted by James on Friday, May 21, 2010