Pesticides, Produce and Children

There is no denying that organic food has made a name for itself in the past decade. It has gained a lot of support for many good reasons and is changing the way that people eat for the better. Not all organic food is healthier than conventional food but for the most part organic is better, and for many reasons. One of the main reasons is due to its lack of chemical pesticides. Contrary to common belief, organic farmers do use pesticides. These pesticides are naturally-derived, unlike synthetic pesticides found in conventional produce – and typically pose very little threat. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) defines a pesticide as  “any substance or mixture of substances used to destroy, suppress or alter the life cycle of any pest.” I don’t know about you but words like destroy, suppress and alter make me feel nervous about my food.

A Consumer Reports Special Report on Pesticides in Produce indicates that their recent “survey of 1,050 people found that pesticides are a concern for 85 percent of Americans.” People are skeptical about the quality of what they eat and for good reason. The Environmental Working Group (EWG) has released a list of 12 conventionally-grown fruits and vegetables they call “The Dirty Dozen” all of which have been tested to have high levels of pesticide residue on them. Some of these products include apples, cucumbers, potatoes, celery, and spinach, all of which many people eat on a daily basis. The Dirty Dozen report indicates that 99% of apples, 98% of peaches, and 97% of nectarines all have at least one pesticide on them. Potatoes have more pesticides by weight than any other crop and some crop samples contained as many as 13 individual pesticides. With that knowledge at hand, an apple a day may not keep the doctor away.

Diseases that can be caused by pesticide ingestion include brain/central nervous system, lung, colon, and breast cancer, and Hodgkin’ and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and many more. Organic food is a great alternative to conventional, and if you have children it may be the safest choice for them. The nutritional content of conventional vs. organic produce is nearly identical according to many recent studies, but that is not the issue. The issue at hand is that children are especially susceptible to diseases caused by pesticides. Remaining as healthy as possible while growing up is the best way to ensure a proper and prepared immune system for adulthood. Adults don’t have such a high risk of contracting a disease because their immune systems are fully developed and pound for pound they do not ingest as much pesticides as do children.

Ingesting pesticides is something that no one should do, especially developing children. Pesticide exposure at very low levels can have long term affects meaning that even a “safe” level of pesticide residue can pose risk. Many kids do not clean their fruits and vegetables off with water before they eat them, leading to harmful pesticide ingestion from conventional produce their parents buy for them. As a matter of fact some of the most popular produce eaten by children is on the Dirty Dozen list, apples being number 1 and peaches a little further down.

A recent article by the EWG reported that a study conducted by “Cynthia Curl of the University of Washington published February 5, found that people who report they “often or always buy organic produce had significantly less organophosphate insecticides in their urine samples, even though they reported eating 70 percent more servings of fruits and vegetables per day than adults reporting they “rarely or never” purchase organic produce.” WOW, what an amazing study.

There is mounting evidence that organic food is clearly the healthier choice. Not only does organic food help out or environment by being sustainable but it helps us grow our future and that is healthy children. However it is important to remember that not all organic produce is pesticide free and that they can still pose health risks. Always thoroughly wash your produce.

-Posted by David

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