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Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Why Kids Should Eat Organic: The Science


"Organics No Better."   "Save Your Cash: Organic Food is Not Healthier."

You've seen the headlines. You've heard the stories.  The media is notorious for asserting that the claims about organics are not valid because they are not backed up by science.  So it's time to listen up: a study by University of California, Davis scientists being published in the journal Environmental Health is here to tell you differently.  Let's cut to the chase:

"Based on the dietary data we collected for different age groups, potential exposure to environmental toxins through the food consumption route is a real and significant concern particularly for children in their preschool and primary years, with a high proportion of this age group estimated to exceed benchmark levels for a number of contaminants with known effect on health."

Let's sit down and read that again.  "Real and significant concern" and "exceed benchmark levels for a number of contaminants" should jump out at you.  So, let us look at the study:  Researchers examined exposure to multiple food contaminants among groups of children ages 2-4 and 5-7 years old and older adults.  They looked at 11 toxic compounds: acrylamide, arsenic, lead, mercury, chlorpyrifos, permethrin, endosulfan, dieldrin, chlordane, DDE, and dioxin.  The toxic compounds were assessed for cancer benchmark levels to determine exposure levels among children.  And here's where things get scary:  "cancer benchmark levels were exceeded by all children (100%) for arsenic, dieldrin, DDE, and dioxins.  Non-benchmarks were exceeded by >95% of preschool-age children for acrylamide and by 10% of preschool-age children for mercury."  

How on earth are our children becoming so toxic?  Study researchers argue that "food may be the primary route of exposure to contaminants from multiple chemical classes such as metals (mercury, lead, arsenic), persistent organic pollutants (POPs) (dioxin, DDT, dieldrin, chlordane), and pesticides (chlorpyrifos, permethrin, endosulfan)."  Our chemical-laden food supply means that there is no mysterious agent poisoning our children, it is on their plates, in their lunchboxes, at OUR dinner tables.  And the exposure to these environmental toxins have been linked to "cancer, asthma, lead poisoning, neurobehavioral disorders, learning and developmental disabilities, and birth defects."

What foods are the greatest offenders?  The study cites conventionally produced "tomatoes, peaches, apples, peppers, grapes, lettuce, broccoli, strawberries, spinach, dairy, pears, green beans, and celery."  The study's researchers also recommend "consuming organically produced dairy and selected fruits and vegetables to reduce pesticide intake, consuming less animal foods (meat, dairy, and fish) to reduce intake of persistent organic pollutants and metals, and consuming lower quantities of chips, cereals, crackers, and other processed carbohydrate foods to reduce acrylamide intake."

Those are some strong words and some sage advice from scientists, including a professor of Public Health and a professor of Epidemiology.  No science to support why our kids should eat organic?  The next time you hear that, be sure to ask the messenger to check their sources.

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