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Daily News Blog

14
Oct

Another Study Confirms Eating an Organic Diet Lowers Pesticide Levels in Children

(Beyond Pesticides, October 14, 2015) New research from the Center for Environmental Research and Children’s Health (CERCH) shows that children, especially those in low-income and agricultural families, who switched to an organic diet reduced their bodies’  level of pesticides. This California study is one of several that documents the benefits of eating an organic diet, especially for children who are especially vulnerable to pesticide exposures due to the developing bodies.

schoolclass2The study, Effect of Organic Diet Intervention on Pesticide Exposures in Young Children Living in Low-Income Urban and Agricultural Communities  follows 40 children, 3-6 years old from low-income families living in urban and agricultural environments in Oakland and Salinas, California. The children alternated between a conventionally grown diet and organic, and urine samples were analyzed each day. The researchers measure 23 metabolites of several pesticides classes, including organophosphates (OP) and pyrethroid insecticides, and the herbicides 2,4-D and metolachlor. These pesticides are frequently detected (> 72%) in urine samples collected, with metabolites of 2,4-D detected 90 percent of the time, and pyrethroids 82 percent.

Overall, among the most frequently detected pesticides, metabolites of OPs  decreases by nearly 50 percent when children are on an organic diet, and levels of 2,4-D falls by 25 percent. Pyrethroid metabolites however, did not significantly decrease during an organic diet. The researchers hypothesize that this is due to the overwhelming use of pyrethroids in and around homes, and children are exposed to pyrethroids from their living environment, not solely through diet. Pyrethroids are also more frequently detected in children from the urban area, which also reports higher use of pesticides in the home. Conversely, the most frequently detected metabolites are generally higher in children from the agricultural region compared to those from the urban area, suggesting higher exposure levels for children living in agricultural communities.

Nina Holland, PhD, an adjunct professor in the University of California, Berkeley, School of Public Health who worked on the study, said this was “one of the most remarkable studies of its kind” and could encourage farmers to grow organically.

This study is not the first of its kind. Earlier this year, Canadian scientists reported a similar conclusion for people who ate a conventional diet. In that study, the scientists studied nearly 4,500 people from six U.S. cities and examined long-term dietary exposure to 14 OPs, and found lower pesticide levels in those who ate organic. In 2012, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) weighed in on the organic food debate recognizing that lower pesticide residues in organic foods may be significant for children. The Academy also noted that choosing organic is based on larger environmental issues, as well as human health impacts like pollution and global climate change.

Studies  have also found additional health benefits to eating organic. A ten-year University of California study, which compared organic tomatoes with chemically grown produce, found that they have almost double the quantity of disease-fighting antioxidants called flavonoids. A  comprehensive review  of 97 published studies comparing the nutritional quality of organic and conventional foods shows that organic plant-based foods (fruits, vegetables, grains) contain higher levels of eight of 11 nutrients studied, including significantly greater concentrations of the health-promoting polyphenols and antioxidants.  A study  by Newcastle University, published in the  Journal of Science of Food and Agriculture, found that organic farmers who let their cows graze as nature intended are producing better quality milk.

Many people have been making the switch to organic for various health-based reasons. According to a 2014 Gallup poll, nearly half of all U.S. adults “actively” seek to add organic food to their diets. Many who eat and incorporate organic foods into their diet are from city areas, whereas those who eat the least organic foods are described as coming from rural areas. A similar 2014 poll by the Organic Trade Association (OTA) reports that consumption of organic products has continued to increase at a monumental pace. According to the survey, sales of organic products in the U.S. jumped to $35.1 billion in 2013, up 11.5% from the previous year’s $31.5 billion and the fastest growth rate in five years.

Beyond Pesticides advocates in its program and through its  Eating with a Conscience  website choosing organic because of the environmental and health benefits to consumers, workers, and rural families. The Eating with a Conscience database, based on legal tolerances (or allowable residues on food commodities), describes a food production system that enables toxic pesticide use both domestically and internationally, and provides a look at the toxic chemicals allowed in the production of the food we eat and the environmental and public health effects resulting from their use. For more information on the benefits of organic agriculture, see Beyond Pesticides’  Organic Food program page.

All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.

Source:  NYTimes, The Daily Californian

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