Last fall the American Association of Pediatrics (AAP) published a report on pesticides that says:
“Children’s exposures to pesticides should be limited as much as possible.”
1. What are pesticides?
“Pesticides represent a broad classification of chemicals that are applied to kill or control insects, unwanted plants, mold or unwanted animals (e.g. rodents).” AAP says that certain pesticides (insecticides, herbicides, organophosphates and rodenticides) are the primary agents that cause acute and chronic toxicity in children. They have nerve-disrupting agents including several chemicals that have been banned for home use in the U.S. because of their adverse effects.
2. What happens when children are exposed to pesticides?
Malathion is an OP that is widely used in U.S. food production. It is used on strawberries, carrots, grapes, sweet potatoes, and dozens more. Research by Harvard University’s School of Public Health on malathion metabolites in the urine of children found that even low levels of malathion were associated with a 55% higher risk of having ADHD. In addition to the food kids eat, children may also be exposed to many pesticides in the home, such as flea treatment for cats and dogs, lawn-care products, and even treatment for head lice. Additionally, young children play on and crawl across the floor, and “exhibit frequent hand to mouth activity.”
Consider this: “One example evident from the biomonitoring data is chlorphrifos, a non-persistent organophosphate (OP) insecticide. Although banned in 2000 for use inside the home, it continues to be used in agriculture, including orchard fruits, such as apples and pears, and other dietary staples of children. In the Center for Disease Control biomonitoring data, chlorpyrifos-specific urinary metabolites were highest for the youngest age group assessed (6-11 years) compared with older children and adults.” Children are more vulnerable to these and other pesticides because of their lower body weight, and tendency to eat pesticide ridden foods like apples (think apple juice, apple slices, apple sauce) that have OP residues like chlorphrifos.
3. What can parents do?
The AAP cites a study conducted on elementary school students in Seattle where participants, ages 3 to 11-years-old, were first monitored for the presence of malathion and chlorpyrifos metabolites three days on their conventional diets before the researchers substituted most of the children’s conventional diets with organic food items for five consecutive days. The children were then re-introduced to their normal foods and monitored for an additional seven days.
The researchers found that “A rapid and dramatic drop in their urinary excretion of metabolites of malathion and chlorpyrifos OP insecticides during the organic diet phase was observed.” Once the children returned to their conventional (i.e. non-organic) diets, the average malathion metabolite concentration increased as did the chlorpyrifos metabolite concentration.
Choose foods that are USDA-Certified Organic.