Set a good example for your kids and take a more active hand in their health.
Concentrations of two organophosphate pesticides malathion and chlorpyrifos declined substantially in the bodies & elementary-school age children during a five-day period when organic foods were substituted for conventional foods. The two chemicals are the most commonly used insecticides in U.S. agriculture. More than 2 million pounds were applied to California crops in 2003, according to records of the state Department of Pesticide Regulation.
The health effects of exposure to minute amounts of pesticides found in food are largely unknown, especially for children. Some research, however, suggests that the residue harm the developing nervous system. For 15 days, a team of environmental scientists from the University of Washington, Emory University and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention tested the urine of 23 elementary-school-age children in the Seattle area.
During the first 3 days and last seven days, the children ate their normal foods. But during the middle five days, organic items were substituted for most of their diet, including fruits, vegetables, juices and wheat and corn based processed items such as cereal and pasta. Average levels of both pesticides in the children "decreased to the non-detect levels immediately after the introduction of organic diets and remained non detectable until the conventional diets were reintroduced" the researchers reported last week in the online version of the scientific journal Environmental Health Perspectives.
When they ate organic foods, the children on average had zero malathion detected in the urine, with a high of 7 parts per billion in one child. But when the children returned to eating conventional foods, one child had as much as 263 ppb and the average increased to 1.6 ppb. For chlorpyrifos, the children had less than one part per billion when they ate organic foods, but the average increased five fold as soon as they returned to their previous diet.
The findings suggest that children are exposed to organophosphate chemicals mainly through food, not through spraying in homes or other sources. In 2001, the U.S. EPA banned most residential uses of chorpyrifos but has left most agricultural uses unrestricted.
Three other organophosphate pesticides that are not widely used on farms and are more highly restricted by the EPA were undetectable in most of the children, according to the study, directed by Emory University's Dr. Chensheng Lu. "In conclusion," the researchers wrote "we were able to demonstrate that an organic diet provides a dramatic and immediate protective effect against exposure to organophosphorus pesticides that are commonly used in agricultural production."
Organophosphate Pesticides are all called "non persistent pesticides" because they break down fairly rapidly in the environment (within days or weeks), reducing their potential to accumulate in the tissues of plants, animals or humans. This class is the most widely used type of pesticide, with common uses in agriculture, in the home, and in the garden. Recent studies have found that home environments throughout the U.S. are commonly contaminated with pesticides, including organophosphate insecticides. In addition to large one-time exposures, the pesticide residues from applications around the home, as well as residues on food and in drinking water can lead to long-term, low-level exposure to organophosphates.
All organophosphate insecticides affect the body though similar mechanisms. For this reason, their health effects are consider to be "additive". This means that the toxicity of the combination of two or more chemicals is equal to the sum of the toxicity of each individual chemical.
These pesticides are effective in killing insects because they interfere with the normal transmission of nerve impulses, and they can affect the nervous system of humans through a similar mechanism. At high doses, organophospahte insecticides cause loss of coordination, inability to control muscle movement, difficulty breathing, convulsions, and even death.
Furthermore, chronic low-level exposures to organophosphates can also cause a wide range of health effects, depending on exposure levels. Health effects can include tiredness, weakness, dizziness, nausea and blurred vision. Effects on the reproductive and hormonal systems of the body can result from exposure to some pesticides. Home pesticide use has been found to be a risk factor for development of Parkinson's Disease.
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