September 12, 2011

Effects of Pesticides on Children

I just finished reading about yet another study researching the effects of pesticides on children. This study specifically links pesticide exposure and ADHD. The study was published in the journal Pediatrics, and according to the article I read, “Children with substantially higher levels of a breakdown product of neurotoxic organophosphate pesticides were twice as likely to be diagnosed with ADHD. The university researchers conclude that parents should buy organic for their kids. Numerous other researchers stress the importance of women eating organic at least six months before conception and throughout pregnancy, too.”

pesticide sign warning people to stay away because chemicals are in use

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has long been abreast of such problems with our kids and the often-pesticide-laced foods they eat. In fact, here’s a statement the EPA made several years ago:

“Children are at a greater risk for some pesticides for a number of reasons. Children's internal organs are still developing and maturing and their enzymatic, metabolic, and immune systems may provide less natural protection than those of an adult. There are ‘critical periods’ in human development when exposure to a toxin can permanently alter the way an individual's biological system operates … Adverse effects of pesticide exposure range from mild symptoms of dizziness and nausea to serious, long-term neurological, developmental and reproductive disorders. Americans use more than a billion pounds of pesticides each year to combat pests on farm crops, in homes, places of business, schools, parks, hospitals, and other public places.”

It may be worth reading the above statement twice to fully digest it. After you do, picture this:

In one part of the U.S. government is the EPA with this information. In another part of the government—the same government—are people allocating funds for school lunch programs that feed children almost exclusively non-organic foods.

But, before I go down a spiral of cynicism about this issue, I will say that I think it’s awesome that universities and organization continue to do studies that bring these issues to light; I think it’s great that such studies are starting to garner some attention by the mainstream media; and I’m glad to know that there are more and more farmers out there every day who are ditching the pesticides and using natural methods to grow food for us.

If you want to reduce pesticide exposure and have been thinking about eating more organic foods, be aware that buying products at the store with the “organic” label isn’t the only way. You can always go to farmers markets and just ask farmers if they spray their crops (being “certified organic” isn’t the only way to be organic). You can also try growing more of your own food. Or, punch your Zip code into Local Harvest, and try to find a farmer in your area who offers the foods you’d like to buy. I got strawberries at a dirt cheap price by using the Local Harvest website earlier this summer. I talked to the wonderful lady who grew the berries about her growing practices, and her little farm is totally no-spray.

Another point to keep in mind is that fresh fruits and vegetables aren’t the only types of foods that can have pesticide residues on them. Processed foods can come with a lot of pesticide residues, too, as these types of foods often contain a lot of soy, corn and/or wheat—all crops that are usually grown in huge fields that get doused with pesticides often.

I think the most important thing to do after reading this post is just tell a few friends about this issue if you haven’t already. The more we spread the word, and the more we vote with our dollars and our actions, the closer we’ll get to change.

Photo by Flickr/andypowe11

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