Recently, in an article for Bottom Line’s Daily Health News (May 19, 2011), the work of Dr. David Pimentel, professor emeritus of entomology at Cornell University, Ithaca, New York, was referenced regarding the increasing concern about pesticides in the environment and what concentrations of pesticides over time do to adults and children. There is serious concern about the effects of exposure to pesticides in young children, as children are growing!
While it’s been almost 40 years since the 1972 ban by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) of the regular use of the pesticide DDT (Its chemical name is 1,1,1-trichloro-2,2-bis-(p-chlorophenyl) ethane.), DDT is still used in other countries to combat insects which carry diseases like yellow fever and malaria. Yet, since 1972, pesticide use in the U.S. has not declined but increased. In fact, about 70,000 chemicals are in use today in different pesticides and herbicides and some are known carcinogens.
There is new research linking pesticides to diseases and unhealthy conditions other than cancer, such as Parkinson’s Disease, dementia and infertility in men. In “Pesticides and Risk of Parkinson’s Disease”(J. Firestone et al, American Medical Association, 2005), the authors find pesticide exposures are suspected risk factors for Parkinsonism. In children, however, the problem of pesticides, Dr. Pimentel says, is “amplified” compared with adults, as children actually consume more food in proportion to their body weight than adults, so they receive a proportionally greater amount of food exposed to pesticides or herbicides. A study in children found that the body fluids of “children eating a variety of conventional foods contained markers for organophosphates, a lethal pesticides used to disable the nervous system of pests.” When the same children’s diets were changed “to only organic foods, the chemicals disappeared from their bodies within 36 hours.” While pesticides have been tagged as contributors to the increased incidence of neurodegenerative diseases, they continue to be used and their use continues to be scrutinized by scientists in the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the EPA and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, as well as by university laboratory scientists like Dr. Pimentel.
While newer pesticides and herbicides on the market are used in lesser concentrations than DDT was used, some of the newer pesticides and herbicides are more toxic, such as paraquat and rotenone. So what should parents and caregivers do to protect children from at least some of the effects of pesticides and herbicides found in/on foods?
- Thoroughly washing and peeling fruits and vegetables helps, but some toxins present while the vegetables and fruits were growing can still be present in the plant.
- Preparing foods less likely to retain pesticide residue following washing/peeling such as onions, avocados, corn, pineapples, mangoes, asparagus, sweet peas, kiwi, cabbage, eggplant, papaya, watermelon, broccoli, tomatoes and sweet potatoes. Some of these have thick skins which are often removed before consumption and which protect the food, while others may be sprayed less as they generally experience less predation by insects.
- Knowing and avoiding fruits and vegetables that have been sprayed with pesticides and purchasing more organic fruits and vegetables can help eliminate 80 percent of the pesticide exposure in foods. Conventional fruits and vegetables which have the greatest exposure to pesticides include: Celery, peaches, strawberries, apples, blueberries, nectarines, bell peppers, spinach, kale, cherries, potatoes, grapes, carrots.
“What You Should Know About Pesticide Dangers”, Bottom Line’s Daily Health News (May 19, 2011) Resource: David Pimentel, PhD, professor, department of entomology, systematics and ecology, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York.
3 Op. Cit.