Organic food gives children dramatic protection

Switching to organic foods provides children "dramatic and immediate" protection from widely used agricultural pesticides, a recent federally funded US study concludes. Scientists from three universities tested the urine of 23 daycare and elementary students over 15 days. For the first three days and the last seven days, the children ate their normal foods. During the middle five days, organic food were substituted for most of their diet, including fruits, vegetables, juices and wheat- and corn-based processed items such as cereal and pasta.

The scientists studied concentrations of two organophosphate pesticides, malathion and chlorpyrifos. They found that the amount of these pesticides in the children’s bodies declined substantially during the five-day period when organic foods were substituted for conventional foods.

Average levels of both malathion and chlorpyrifos in the children "decreased to the nondetect levels immediately after the introduction of organic diets and remained nondetectable until the conventional diets were reintroduced," the researchers reported. When they ate organic foods, the children on average had zero malathion detected in their urine, with a high of seven parts per billion in one child. But when the children returned to eating conventional foods, one child had as much as 263 parts per billion and the average increased to 1.6 parts per billion.

"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." The study is one of the first to test how pesticide exposure is affected by changing children’s diets from conventional to organic foods.

The health effects of exposure to continuous, minute amounts of these pesticides found in food are largely unknown, especially for children. Research suggests that the residue may harm the developing nervous system, as well as the liver.

The study was published in the September 1, 2005 Environmental Health Perspectives on line. It can be found at, Organic Diets Significantly Lower Children's Dietary Exposure to Organophosphorus Pesticides