Children who eat an organic diet are protected from exposure to at least two of the most common agricultural pesticides, according to a report published last week.
In a study conducted in 2003, a group of 23 children aged 3-11 ate their normal diets for the first three days. During the next five days, they ate organic replacements of the fresh fruit and vegetables, juices, processed foods and corn-based foods in their usual diet. In the final week of the study, the children resumed their conventional diets. Researchers examined the children?s daily urine output and found that all 23 had metabolites of malathion and chlorpyrifos when they enrolled in the study. However, as soon as they switched to organic diets, these metabolites were not detectable in their urine, and remained at zero levels until conventional foods were reintroduced.
?We were able to demonstrate that an organic diet provides a dramatic and immediate protective effect against exposures to organophosphorus pesticides that are commonly used in agricultural production,? the authors wrote in their report, published Sept. 1 in the National Institutes of Health?s online version of Environmental Health Perspectives. ?Although we did not collect health outcome data in this study, it is intuitive to assume that children whose diets consist of organic food items would have a lower probability of neurological health risks.?
According to the report, OP pesticides cause neurological effects in animals and humans. But, if they?re eliminated from the body so quickly after beginning an organic diet, how dangerous are the pesticides in food? ?We do not know whether the relatively short biological half-lives for the organophosphorous pesticides in the human body would actually cause less toxicity than other groups of pesticides with longer half-lives,? said Chensheng ?Alex? Lu, the lead researcher. ?The chronic toxicity due to persistent lower-level exposure to OP pesticides is relatively unknown and not well studied yet,? Lu said. ?Some recent studies have suggested that pesticide exposure may act as the precursor to some neurological diseases, such as Parkinsonism, [where] the clinical symptoms would only show up in later life.?
Chlorpyrifos was used extensively in residential termite-control products and pet flea collars until such applications were banned in late 2001. It continues to be widely used in corn, apple, orange, almond and walnut crops.