I can remember when I was about 5 years old seeing the open back truck filled with fresh fruits and veggies coming down the street. This old man would be yelling from the truck “potatoes, tomatoes, cucumbers”. The truck stopped in front of our house and my dad gave me a nickel so I could buy a cucumber. Oh by the way, I grew up in Queens, NY not a European country. I don’t consider my self that old but a nickel sure sounds cheap compared to the .99 cents it cost now. The one main difference is that my 5 cent cucumber probably didn’t come with all the added pesticides and lathered in edible wax.
So what exactly is all the hype about pesticides and food? Statically speaking, according to the USDA data, more then 1 billion pounds of pesticides are used in the U.S. and more then 70 percent of the conventionally grown fresh fruits and vegetables contain one or more pesticide residues. There has also been an increase in pesticides since genetically modified seeds have been used in part because of herbicide resistant weeds.
There is a growing concern that pregnant women, infants and young children are at risk from these environmental toxins. Studies show that pesticide exposure is a major risk factor in developing neurological conditions including ADHD. The actual cause of ADHD and some of the other learning and developmental disabilities is unknown however many factors such as nutrition and environmental toxins are being careful reviewed.
Although babies may be exposed to toxins while in the womb their exposure increases greatly once born. They increase through diet, outdoor activities and hand to mouth behavior. Researches are continuing to look at the affect of these environmental toxins and there damage to brain function and development, including attention and behavior effects. Keep in mind that children are not “ little adults” and that these chemicals are up to ten times more toxic to children then they are us.
One of the more recent notable studies was conducted by Bouchard in the Pediatrics Journal who studies children in the United States showing that the children with higher urinary levels of certain pesticides were more likely to met the criteria for ADHD diagnosis. The study concluded that it demonstrates a possible connection associated with pesticides and the risk of developing ADHD.
I believe it is noteworthy mentioning that the EPA, USDA, and the FDA are involved in the regulation, use, and safety of agricultural pesticides. However, the conventional grown produce contains residues that are with in the EPA’s allowable limits. Imagine they know these chemicals are harmful and think it is okay to “ just set a limit” on how much we (or our children) can consume. So, do pesticides pose a health risk at low levels of exposure? Biological monitoring in the United States shows that pesticides and other contaminants are more common then once thought.
The question then remains is buying organic going to eliminate some of the risks of pesticides? Some researchers found that children who switched from eating conventionally grown produce to eating organic produce had either undetectable or detectable but not quantifiable levels of urinary pesticide metabolites. (Environmental Health perspective)
Organic farmers use renewable resources and value soil and water conservation. In contrast to long-lasting synthetic pesticides, botanical or nonsynthetic pesticides used in organic farming are quickly broken down by sunlight and oxygen. However, an estimated 10% to 25% of organic fruits and vegetables contain some residues of synthetic pesticides due to polluted groundwater and rain but in amounts significantly lower than conventional produce.
My thoughts, I would rather purchase the organic when ever possible and continue to buy local at my favorite farmers markets and pick my own at Hanover Farm here in Yorktown. At least I know where my fruits and vegetables are coming from and if I have a question I can ask the farmer himself. Having said that, I am going to miss the summer produce.