Lowering Children’s Exposure to Pesticides in their Diet
Chemical residue from pesticides can have harmful effects on those who ingest a contaminated fruit or vegetable, especially children. It has been proposed that eating organically grown fruits and vegetables is a viable way to lower children’s exposure to residual pesticides. Some think that exposure to these pesticide residues may also be a factor in the increase of obesity and type 2 diabetes rates.
Endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDC) such as organochlorine pesticides, are compounds that mimic or interfere with the normal action of endocrine hormones such as estrogens, androgens, and thyroid, hypothalamic, and pituitary hormones. Humans are exposed to EDC’s through direct contact with chemicals such as insecticides, herbicides, and fungicides and indirectly through ingestion of contaminated food or water. EDC’s are also used in making many products such as plastic water bottles, thermal receipt paper, cosmetics, shampoos and pesticides. The EDC’s that are of particular concern are the ones that are lipophilic, resistant to metabolism, and/or are able to bioconcentrate up the food chain; this is because these substances become stored in body fats and can be transferred to the developing offspring via the placenta or egg during pregnancy. (McCullum-Gomez, 2010).
Children have been reported as having potentially higher exposure and increased risks from exposure to organophosphorus pesticides (OP) than adults because the developing brain is more susceptible to neurotoxins and because their higher food and water consumption per pound of body weight. Children also have lower levels than adults of the enzyme paraoxonase 1, an enzyme involved in protection against OP pesticides and oxidative stress. Researchers have reported an association between urinary dimethyl alkyphosphate concentrations, which are markers of exposure to OP pesticides, and increased odds of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder for children 8-15 years of age. Current exposure to Op pesticides for the general population comes primarily through the ingestion of pesticide residues on foods, researchers found that by substituting organic fresh fruits and vegetables for corresponding conventional items, median urinary metabolite concentrations for malathion and clorpyifos were reduced to nondetectable or nearly nondetectable levels. A report prepared by the EPA showed a significant shift in pesticide residues and risk from domestically grown fruits and vegetables to imports since the passage of the food quality protection act in 1996. The greater consumption of imported conventional produce during the winter and spring seasons may have led to higher OP exposures in children. (McCullum-Gomez, 2010).
There are multiple ways in which parents can increase their children’s access to and intake of organically produced foods. Parents can purchase in-season, locally produced organic fruits and vegetables from places like farmers’ markets, farm stands and grocery cooperatives. Planting a home garden is also a wonderful way for parents to get children involved in making healthy decisions about their diets. (McCullum-Gomez, 2010).
Some consumers may be unaware of the dangers to our health from the residue of pesticides, but it is imperative that consumers are educated to what their families may be exposed to. Additional health concerns may be investigated for many years and the extensive effects of exposure to residual pesticide may not ever be fully be understood. With that point in mind it is important to limit the exposure to these chemicals by buying local organic produce.
McCullum-Gómez, C.. (2010). Commentary: Role of Organically Produced Foods in Reducing Exposure to Synthetic Pesticides in Children’s Diets. Diabetes Spectrum, 23(4), 254-258. Retrieved April 11, 2011, from ProQuest Nursing & Allied Health Source. (Document ID: 2208389001).
- What Pesticides Are On Your Food? (thegoodhuman.com)
- Cleaner Living: A Better Berry (ctworkingmoms.com)
- Pesticide Exposure Found to Lower Intelligence (activistpost.com)
- Dropping Poison From Planes: Are We Exposing Kids To Toxic Chemicals While Battling West Nile? (huffingtonpost.com)
- Common Pesticides Associated with Lower Birth Weight and Shortened Pregnancy (ecowatch.org)
- Alex Formuzis: Safe vs. Safer (huffingtonpost.com)