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Hidden dangers in fruits and veggies

By Angela Young

New research published in the Pediatrics journal suggests that an increased risk of developing attention deficit hyperactivity disorder can be linked to the trace amounts of pesticides ingested from commercially grown produce.

To conduct the study, researchers from Harvard University and the University of Montreal studied urine samples from 1,139 children ranging in age from 8 to 15, looking for organophosphate persticide metabolites, a key indicator of exposure to pesticide. Of the children studied, 95 percent tested positive for having these byproducts in their system.

Additionally, the children that had the highest levels of pesticide in their bodies were 93% more likely to recieve an ADHD diagnosis than those children with no pesticide in their system. All of the children with above average levels of organosphosphate byproducts in their systems, or nearly one third of the entire group, were up to twice as likely to have ADHD.

While it has been shown through previous studies that high levels of organophosphate exposure has negative effects on children's cognitive function and behavior, this research shows that relatively low levels also have a significant impact. Most pesticide exposure today comes from food such as conventionally grown fruits and vegetables.

Researchers are cautioning against any definitive response to these findings because they do not want to promote cutting fruit and vegetable consumption among children, however they do want to continue to evaluate the research in other populations and over a longer period of time.

In response to the study, the Environmental Protection Agency released a statement that shows that in the period since the data was collection (2000 to 2004), it has cut almost all use of organophosphate pesticides from other products such as bug sprays and lawn products to reduce the risks posed to children.

While critics do agree that the government has made some big moves in reducing pesticide exposure, they state that there is still a lot of room for improvement. A combination of the mass quantities of fruits and vegetables imported from international growers, as well as those that are labeled Organic, but still have chemical residues present have fueled the push on the government to develop more broad guidelines for how pesticides can be used in modern farming practices.

While the costs of eating an entirely organic diet are prohibitive to many families, experts recommend that washing fruits and vegetables in a mild soap and water and thoroughly rinsing can have a postive effect on reducing exposure to pesticides. The higly perishable foods like strawberries, apples, blueberries and peaches are generally the highest in pesticide residues and experts recommend the option of buying direct from local farmers to ensure that you know what chemicals were used in the production of your produce.  




 


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