Organic strawberries

Just one week after President Obama’s Cancer Panel  recommended consumers choose food grown without chemical fertilizers or pesticides, antibiotics and growth hormones to decrease exposure to environmental chemicals that can increase the risk of cancer, the journal Pediatrics published a study that concludes exposure to organophosphate pesticides at levels common among America’s children are more likely to develop  attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) that is common in today’s children.

Researchers measured the pesticide byproducts in the urine of 1,139 children and found children with above-average levels had roughly twice the odds of being diagnosed with ADHD. This is the largest study of its kind.

Christine Bushway, Executive Director of the Organic Trade Association states in a press release,  “Studies have increasingly shown the importance of minimizing young children’s exposure to even low levels of chemical pesticides. This study adds to that wealth of knowledge and arms parents with information that helps them reduce their children’s pesticide intake.”

This is a great reminder of organophosphates original intended use – they were developed for chemical warfare. Organophosphates are toxic to the nervous system and are used in today’s conventional agriculture to kill pests.

Pesticides act on a set of brain chemicals closely related to those involved in ADHD explains Maryse Bouchard, Ph.D., the lead researcher in the study from the department of environmental and occupational health at the University of Montreal. Bouchard states, “so it seems plausible that exposure to organophosphates could be associated with ADHD-like symptoms.”

The study cited a 2008 report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture stating that detectable levels of pesticides are present in a large number of fruits and vegetables sold in the U.S. . The agency tested a  representative sample of produce and found 28 percent of frozen blueberries, 25 percent of strawberries and 20 percent of celery, contained traces of one type of organophosphate.  27 percent of green beans, 17 percent of peaches and 8 percent of broccoli contained another type of organophosphate.

Bouchard states that kids should not stop eating fruits and veggies if they are not organic, but it is a good idea to eat organic or local produce whenever possible.

“Organic fruits and vegetables contain much less pesticides, so I would certainly advise getting those for children,” she says. “National surveys have also shown that fruits and vegetables from farmers’ markets contain less pesticides even if they’re not organic. If you can buy local and from farmers’ markets, that’s a good way to go.”

Certified organic foods cannot use harmful pesticides like organophosphates or synthetic fertilizers  in their soil. Additionally, these foods can not contain any artificial colors, flavors, preservatives, genetically modified organisms (GMOs) or irradiation.

“Organic food production and processing is the only system that uses certification and inspection to verify that these chemicals are not used,” Bushway stated. “Those seeking to minimize their exposure to these chemicals can look for the USDA Organic label wherever they shop.”