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Children: Organic Foods and Pesticides

2017 July 8 by


fruits veges


Pesticides pose several risks to children. They cause physical symptoms, mental impairment, hormone disruption, and increase the risk of developing cancer. Physical symptoms of pesticide exposure include respiratory problems and asthma, headaches, nausea, skin rashes, genetic damage linked to neurological disorders, and impaired immune function. Mental symptoms include disorientation, attention problems, and fatigue. Several types of cancers in children have been linked to pesticides, including leukemia, brain cancer, and soft tissue sarcoma.

Hormone disruption is an especially insidious effect of pesticides. Cells have hormone receptor sites that recognize specific hormones that will then trigger a response in the cell. Pesticides, and some other environmental chemicals like petrochemicals and plastics, can mimic hormones and bind to the same receptor sites stimulating the same effects as hormones. Precocious puberty in young girls for example has been linked to pesticide and hormone exposure from foods. Fifty percent of African-American and fifteen percent of Caucasian American girls now begin menstruating by age eight. All of this estrogenic activity also increases a woman’s risk of developing breast and reproductive organ cancers. These same pesticides may also have the opposite effect, blocking hormones and causing infertility and masculinization of girls.

Pesticides from foods do accumulate in children’s bodies. A study published by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has confirmed that children who eat a diet of predominantly organic foods have a much lower amount of pesticide exposure than children fed a conventional diet. The researchers measured byproducts of organophosphorus pesticides in the urine of 39 children fed organic and nonorganic diets. All children were aged 2 to 5 years old. Their parents kept a diet diary for three days and then provided 24 hour urine samples for the study. The nonorganic group had six times the level of pesticide byproducts compared to the organic group (Curl, 2003).

Children are much more likely to develop toxic effects from pesticides than adults. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has drafted an assessment of cancer risk from toxic exposure in children. Based on animal studies and the dynamic action of carcinogens, the report estimates that children under two years of age are ten times more likely to develop cancer from exposure to carcinogens than adults, and children between ages 2 and 15 are three times as likely (US EPA, 2003).. Small children have less ability to metabolize toxins, and children’s exposure to environmental pesticides tends to be greater than adults’ because of their increased exposure to floors, lawns, and playgrounds, more mouthing of objects, and because they breathe closer to the ground than adults. In addition, children have more skin surface for their size than adults to absorb environmental toxins.

The answer to this problem of pesticides is to limit children’s exposure as much as possible. Never use commercial pesticides in your home or in your garden or lawn. Lobby in your community to stop the spraying of pesticides at schools. Finally, eat organic foods whenever possible.


Buy organic produce if possible. Commercially grown produce should be cleaned with a vegetable and fruit wash available at health food stores that is made from enzymes and surfactants that remove residual sprays on produce with skins. This is not a completely reliable method of eliminating pesticides because they may be absorbed into the body of the fruit or vegetable, but it helps.

Some fruits and vegetables have much more pesticide residues than others. A study from the United Kingdom showed that pesticide residues on some fruits are uncommonly high. Some apples, pears, raspberries, and grapes contained pesticides that exceeded the legal limits of permitted residues. The list goes on. Lettuce, cherries, and pumpkins all contained potentially dangerous levels of toxic pesticide residues. The produce originated from all over the world, grapes from Brazil and Europe, lettuce from Spain, and cherries from Canada (Pesticide Residues Committee, 2003).

The Environmental Working Group (EWG) has created a list of the most contaminated fruits and vegetables. The EWG recommends buying foods in the most contaminated group from organic sources. Other produce items are relatively safe from commercial sources with consistently low levels of pesticides. These safer foods include blueberries, pineapple, broccoli, melons, and California grapes (

Highest in pesticides

(buy organic or unsprayed)

Bell Peppers
Grapes (imported)
Red Raspberries

Lowest in Pesticides




Peas (sweet)

Animal products

Buy animal products, including milk, eggs, chicken, turkey, beef, and pork that are free of pesticides, antibiotics, and hormones whenever possible. Organic eggs are readily available. Commercially raised chickens are housed in individual one-foot cages stacked in huge warehouses. They are fed a diet of antibiotics and grains laden with pesticides. Free-range chickens have access to the ground and to the outdoors. If they are labeled organic, then their feed contains no pesticides. Similarly, organic dairy cattle are fed no animal products and no pesticide treated grass or grain. They are not treated with antibiotics. And they are given no growth hormones.

Beef and pork products should be free of hormones and antibiotics. Packaged meats should be nitrate and nitrite free. If you cannot get free-range poultry, then don’t eat the skin. Pesticides tend to concentrate in the fat. The highest quality beef is labeled organic. This means that the grain fed to the cattle in feedlots is free of pesticides.



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Fruit Alert

2014 May 2 by



Along with the welcome warm summer weather, here comes summer fruit. Time to rejoice and enjoy the amazing health benefits of fruits like strawberries, peaches, nectarines, grapes, and watermelon. These fruits all contain high concentrations of antioxidants and vitamins that promote health. Kids will benefit especially from these high antioxidant fruits because they love their sweet taste.
Dangerous Pesticides
The only caution is the high level of pesticides in some fruits. It is best to buy organic fruits, paying special attention to those fruits that typically have high pesticide residues. Here is a list of the fruits with the highest levels of pesticides. Buy these organic whenever possible.
Peaches and nectarines
Imported grapes


Safe fruits
Fruits with a rind or thick outside covering like watermelon, cantaloupe, mango, pineapple, and avocado have lower levels of pesticides. These are relatively safe to buy non-organic.


Why are pesticides bad for kids?
Pesticides and other petrochemicals are toxic to cells and associated with hormone disruption and cancer. Children are especially susceptible to these effects. Young children have relatively undeveloped livers compared to adults, and the liver is the primary organ responsible for the breakdown of harmful chemicals. It is estimated that young children are subject to three times the cancer risk from petrochemicals compared to adults.
On the other hand, the antioxidants contained in fruits provide a protective effect from the inevitable exposure to petrochemicals that we face in daily life from car exhaust, pollution, plastics, and pesticides used in public places.
Enjoy the summer fruits, and remember the brighter the color the higher the level of antioxidants in our foods.


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Reduce Your Exposure to Cancer-Causing Petrochemicals

2011 July 5 by


Petrochemicals cause cancer. They are also hormone disruptors, capable of contributing to hormone imbalances and premature puberty in children. We are all exposed to these chemicals every day, but we can also limit our exposure by taking simple measures in our daily lives. Some products, like air pollutants, are not in our control. However, there are many household items including the foods we eat and the fumes we breathe that may include hidden petrochemicals.

Children are especially susceptible to these carcinogens. It is estimated that children have at least three times the risk factor of adults for the development of cancer from these chemicals. Children’s relatively undeveloped livers are less effective in the metabolism of toxic chemicals. And small children who play on the floor have more exposure to products that settle from the air.

In Your Diet

Foods that are not organic may contain hidden pesticides. Animal products are a primary source. Cows will concentrate petrochemicals in their fat and milk. Buying organic milk and meat will ensure that you are not inadvertently getting pesticides from the grains these animals themselves eat. Similarly, organic chickens are not fed grains treated with pesticides. Eating organic eggs and chicken will decrease your exposure from these sources. Most fish is not safe to eat. Farm raised fish contain high levels of pesticides, large ocean fish contain high levels of the mercury, and fish imported from Japan may be radioactive.

Some produce is more heavily treated with pesticides. The Environmental Working Group tests produce, and publishes a list of fruits and vegetable with the highest and lowest levels of pesticides. This year their list of the worst fruits includes apples (highest on the list), strawberries, peaches, blueberries, and imported grapes and nectarines. Make sure that these products are organic and you will avoid the worst of the crops that are heavily sprayed. The safest fruits include pineapple, mangoes, grapefruit, kiwi, and watermelon. I recommend that most vegetables be organic when possible, especially leafy greens like lettuce and spinach. Celery is one of the highest on the list of pesticide residues.

Artificial colors and artificial flavors in packaged foods are made from petrochemicals. Even natural flavors are often disguised petroleum products.

In Your Home

There are many other sources of petrochemicals as well. One way to avoid them is to only buy environmentally safe products for your home. This includes cleaning products, laundry detergents, and dishwashing soaps. Never use air fresheners except for those made only with essential, aromatic oils.

Have everyone take off their shoes before entering your home. This will prevent  tracking in oil and pesticides from streets and lawns. If you have any exposure to chemicals in your work, change your clothes as soon as you arrive at home.

Your skin is especially effective at absorbing chemicals. Any chemicals you apply to your skin enter your bloodstream. For this reason you should use only organic shampoos, hand soaps, shaving products, and skin moisturizers.

Taking these simple and inexpensive measures will decrease your risk of cancer.


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