Monday, May 17, 2010


Thank you, Today Show.

As if I wasn't already goofy enough about the foods I feed my child, you had to go and add another level of craziness.

You know I am susceptible to the craziness.

As I was about to turn off the TV this morning to head out the door to work, I caught Dr. Nancy talking about "harmful things in the healthy foods we feed our children". Attention? Consider it grabbed.


She was discussing a new study published online today in the journal Pediatrics. (If you scroll down the page, you can access the full article for free under e-First Pages, titled Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder and Urinary Metabolites of Organophosphate Pesticides).

The jist of the study is this: there is already an established association between organophosphate pesticides and adverse effects on neurodevelopment (behavioral problems, lower IQ) in populations with high exposures (such as children who live on farms, etc.) This study looked at a group of over 1,000 average kids who were representative of the entire US. They found that children who had higher urine levels of organophosphate pesticides were more likely to meet the criteria for a diagnosis of ADHD.

This is by no means a cause and effect type of study, but rather establishes an association between the two and indicates further study could be beneficial.

As someone who works in the health care field, I think it is important to always seek out primary sources of information and determine their reliability. I've read the original article and I would consider Pediatrics to be a reputable journal. I'm not a researcher and I fully admit that I don't understand all the minutiae of the article, but I get the big themes.

More interesting to me, though, were the cited references about the detectable concentrations of pesticides in common foods, like frozen blueberries and strawberries. If you are a nerd like me, you can look at the USDA Pesticide Data Program Annual Summary for 2008. Scroll down to page 50 where you will find Appendix B, Distribution of Residues by Pesticide in Fruit and Vegetables. This appendix takes up 81 pages of a 202 page report. I have no idea what these chemicals are and just because they are listed doesn't mean they are harmful. At a minimum, though, it is eye-opening to see the sheer number of herbicides, fungicides and insecticides that the government monitors in our food supply. Fruit and vegetables would be the primary exposure your children would have to pesticides, but the FDA considers food, drinking water and residential pesticides as important sources for exposure.

Feeling bad enough yet?

I know. It sucks.

I think we all try to do the very best we can for our kids. I think it is impossible to address every risk, or potential risk. We have to make judgment calls about the hysteria of the day and whether or not it will be proven or disproven in the future.

I can't, and do not wish to, control every morsel of food that enters Girly's mouth. She eats six meals and three snacks a week at school, none of which is organic. Not to mention meals we eat at restaurants or other people's houses. I will not change our lifestyle to avoid these necessary or pleasurable events.

I can, however, take more charge of what happens in our own home.
- The author of the study recommends buying organic produce when you can and washing or peeling conventional produce.
- I already mentioned how much I am loving Door to Door Organics. I truly mostly love the convenience, but I am appreciating the organic produce more and more.
- I will continue to use this Shopper's Guide to Pesticides when I am buying produce at the market.
- We don't have a shoe-free home, but I have friends who do. I am leaning more in that direction, especially in the spring and summer months when there are likely to be more chemicals on the grass.
- Buy local and seasonal whenever possible. Ask the farmers at the farmer's market how the food is produced. Some small farmers can't afford all the certifications for 'organic' status, but follow the same rules.

The bureaucracy surrounding the food system in this country is amazing. (Have you seen Food Inc.? Don't worry, it has added to my craziness.) It's also not simple. Buying organic food is not the solution too all of the world's problems. For me, personally, I started really buying organic food when I began making baby food for Girly. I still bought a lot of conventional food for us, which is kind of silly, but I think kids are potentially more susceptible to the effects or pesticides and such. I don't believe that the actual flesh of an organic apple is more nutritional than the flesh of a conventional apple, but I do believe that buying organic produce helps the water system because there is less pesticide run-off, and it supports small business owners. So, maybe if you don't believe in the pesticide hysteria, you will start to buy some organic produce for one of these other reasons.

Anyone still reading? Carrie?

I'm far from perfect when it comes to all of this. And, "perfect" in my mind is different than "perfect" in your mind. The more I learn, though, the more information I can use to help me make better choices for our family. Maybe all of this will give you some food for thought ...

Need help finding local food? Check out Local Harvest.

The organic labeling system in this country doesn't make it any easier to understand this complicated business. has some good information.


Bets said...

I saw the same piece on The Today Show and thought, "Great! One more thing to be worried about!"

Then a minute later I thought, "Well ... at least that means these kids are actually eating fruits & veggies!"

Is that the wrong message to take away? At least it was something positive for me to think about.

Marie Hooker said...

I heard about this today, too, and thought the same thing as you, Bets! And now I'm thinking about signing up for Door To Door Organics...

The Lunds said...

Yes, it's good they are eating fruits and veggies. In truth, though, I think the study just checked urine levels of pesticides and didn't really assess what the kids ate. So, you can't be sure the pesticides are from their diet, but it seems to be the most obvious source.

mary_marshall said...

Mary Marshall is still reading! :-) I'm trying to balance what I stress about regarding my daughter's eating. She's about to move up to the next room at daycare & she'll be eating more food there that isn't organic & prepared by me. It worries me that I can't control what goes in her mouth, but at the same time, I try to tell myself it's part of growing up (for me as a mother & her as a child). Thanks for the info & the links. It is so helpful to be armed with good information.

Carrie said...

Yes I'm still reading. I just had an interesting conversation with someone else we know. As you can tell by looking at our yard, we don't use any pesticides, weed killer spray, etc. on our yard and neither does another friend who lives a little further down the road but for very different reasons-both good. She doesn't want her little one who loves the outside playing in it; Paul didn't want the pesticides running off into our water sources...I'm sure you can think of other reasons, but it all boils down to NO pesticides. I love the list though and rarely buy organic onions...I do peel a couple of extra layers off though, makes me feel better.

Andrea said...

I came very close to asking Nathan's school to switch to orgainic pest control. Decided that might be a step too far. I was happy to know that they do use "green" cleaning supplies. The crazy is sure to continue.

Liz Krueger said...

I'm still reading, too! Reading this post last week made me finally sign up for door to door organics - my first delivery comes Tuesday...can't wait!!