Environmental Health Perspectives recently published an article directly linking consumption of conventionally-produced fruits and vegetables to pesticide residues in children’s bodies. Children are at particular risk when it comes to pesticides. For instance, consumption of organophosphate (OP) pesticide residues have recently been linked to increased rates of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in children. In the EHP study, Forty-six children supplied 239 samples that were analyzed for (OP) and pyrethroid pesticides—both nervous system toxicants and suspected endocrine disruptors. About one fifth of the food samples contained residues. These findings replicate similar results published two years ago in the same journal.
While most residues were within the ranges listed on PAN's What's On My Food? database, there were some exceptions including six OPs and three pyrethroids found on different combinations of the following foods: apples, bell peppers, blackberries, blueberries, broccoli, carrots, celery, cherries, ketchup, lettuce, mushrooms, nectarines, peaches, potatoes, raspberries, spinach, and strawberries. The authors noted that many foods are not included in the USDA's national pesticide residues testing, including some of the foods consumed in the largest quantities by children. It is also important to note that “acceptable levels” (called tolerances) are intended for monitoring residues in raw produce at the farm gate, prior to washing, shipping, storage, marketing, and food preparation and do not consider the potential impact of exposure to multiple pesticides.
The 1993 the National Research Council report, Pesticides in the Diets of Infants and Children, concluded that, “dietary intake represents the major source of pesticide exposure for infants and children, and the dietary exposure may account for the increased pesticide-related health risks in children compared to adults.” This led to the subsequent passing of the 1996 Food Quality Protection Act (FQPA), which promised to rein in residue exposures, especially among children. Clearly the FQPA has not done the job.
To learn more, visit PAN's Food Residues webpage, or explore our What's On My Food? database.