What’s a little organophosphate insecticide among friends…

Here’s the thing; as passionate as I am about clean, unpolluted food and making sure that what the kids are eating is safe, I’d like to state for the record that I am NOT a food nazi. While your typical ‘junk food’ really isn’t something you’ll find in my house, we are still human and I’m not above the occasional cookie or bag of chips (ok, the healthy kind, but the YUMMY healthy kind, not the cardboard healthy kind). The last thing I want to do is deny myself and my family such a long list of basic ingredients that, rather than becoming educated, we all become rebellious and deprived!
Food is fun, food is a joy, food is life!!

But every now and then, when I’m tired of working so damn hard at something as basic as just buying and preparing food, I find an article like the one below and remember what this is really all about, and just how serious it actually is.
(And then I want to personal scream myself hoarse in the face of every bureaucratic nimrod who thinks it’s OK to churn out what is essentially poisonous baby food!)

The following is from the Environmental Working Group, a non-profit research organization:

Report Urges Ban on Dangerous Insecticides
(To read the whole article click on this link)

Every day, 1 million American children age 5 and under consume unsafe levels of a class of pesticides that can harm the developing brain and nervous system, according to a new analysis of federal data by the Environmental Working Group (EWG).
According to the EWG report, peaches, apples, pears and grapes, are the most common sources of exposure to unsafe levels of organophosphate pesticides, or OPs, for young children. The report says the solution is not for infants, children and pregnant women to eat fewer fruits and vegetables, but to rid these otherwise healthful foods of the most dangerous pesticides.
“Kids should be able to eat a diet rich in fruits and vegetables without risking brain or nerve damage,” said EWG vice president for research Richard Wiles, lead author of the study.

(If that link doesn’t work for you, go to http://www.ewg.org and look under Health/Toxics)

Also from the Environmental Working Group in a separate piece:

“Ten years after a consumer revolt against apples treated with the carcinogen Alar prompted a ban on the chemical, children are no better protected from pesticides in the nation’s food supply. […] A new study by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) shows apples, as well as some other fruits and vegetables, are so contaminated parents should consider substituting items known to be lower in pesticides.”

See also the Children’s Health Environmental Coalition

AND check out what this well-known Princeton-educated pediatric expert has to say:
Links Between Chemicals and Health

Choosing organic foods can make a big difference for our children. Industrial agriculture techniques are relatively recent innovations. When my parents were young, the bulk of our food supply was not grown with antibiotics, hormones, or chemical pesticides. Their use became widespread in my lifetime. We are finally beginning to scientifically examine the impact of these techniques. I’ve summarized some of the most important recent studies below. These are some of the reasons that I am encouraging parents to take the Organic Lunchbox Challenge of giving their kids at least one serving of organic foods each day this year.



The following text is from Kids Eat Great with Christine Wood, M.D. Pediatrician

What Is the Government Doing for Our Children?

Safety standards are based on the adult male, and they presently do not consider the vulnerability of children. A landmark report from the National Academy of Sciences in 1993 entitled “Pesticides in the Diets of Infants and Children” recognized that infants and children are at the highest risk from toxic substances, but often they are the least protected. This report encouraged the federal government to change its scientific and regulatory procedures to protect children. Some points from this report (listed below) indicate factors that need to be recognized in children.

  • Children have fast metabolisms, have less varied diets, and are particularly vulnerable to the effects of pesticides.
    Their ability to activate, detoxify, and excrete toxins is different than that of adults.
  • Because of their smaller size, children are exposed to higher levels of pesticides per unit of body weight.
  • Measurements of pesticide residues tend to focus on foods eaten by the average adult; children’s diets are under represented.
  • Effects of multiple exposures to pesticides may be greater than the sum of effects from separate exposures and must be evaluated.
  • Better tests and more data are needed to evaluate concerns in children.
  • According to this report, safety standards developed should apply to all health effects, not just cancer, including harm to the nervous system, immune system, or reproductive ability.
    The effects of non-dietary sources of pesticide exposure combined with dietary sources of exposure need to be evaluated.

The Food Quality Protection Act, passed unanimously by Congress in 1996, requires that all pesticides be safe for infants and children and promises to reassess the levels of pesticide residues allowed in food. The law also stipulates that combined exposures to pesticides be considered when setting safety standards. The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is committed to increasing protection for infants and children, but new standards may take years to develop. The agency has until 2006 to ensure that all old pesticides meet new standards.

When to Go Organic?

The Reality of Pesticides Consumers Union, an advocacy group and publisher of Consumer Reports magazine, has criticized the EPA for not providing basic information about pesticides for consumers. Consumers Reports has published two recent reports on pesticides in foods in January 1998 and again in March 1999. The main concern given in both of these articles has to do with how pesticides affect our children and the vulnerability of children to present standards. Some highlights from these articles follow:

  • The pesticide levels on nearly all produce was within legal limits but may not be at levels safe for children.
  • Domestic produce had more pesticides than imported produce in two-thirds of the cases.
  • Of 27 foods tested between 1994 and 1997, seven – apples, grapes, green beans, peaches, pears, spinach, and winter squash – had the highest toxicity score.
  • A high toxicity score does not necessarily mean a person is at high risk, but it depends on how often and how much of the item a person eats relative to that person’s body weight.
  • A single sample of spinach had up to 14 different pesticides. One in 13 spinach samples had pesticide residues that exceeded the safe daily limit in a single serving for a 44-pound child.
  • Foods with a very low toxicity score included: apple juice, bananas, broccoli, canned peaches, milk, orange juice, and canned or frozen peas and corn.

See Food News to get a handy wallet guide and a full list of 43 fruits and vegetables and how they rate with their pesticides load.  This list was put together by the Environmental Working Group.  If your child eats food off the list that are more highly contaminated with pesticides, you should choose to buy more organic of those fruits and vegetables.



SO, Here’s my question for this post: What ever happened to the Food Protection Quality Act??

Among other things included in the act were the following provisions: 

Provides Protection for Infants and Children

Requires explicitly that pesticide residues be safe for infants and children and includes an additional safety factor of 10-fold, if necessary, to allow for uncertainty in data collected on children’s diets. Also takes into account children’s special sensitivity to pesticides.

Gives Consumers Right To Know

Requires EPA to prepare for produce retailers a brochure discussing the risks and benefits of pesticides, how to avoid risks including recommending substitute foods, and identifying foods that have tolerances for pesticide residues that were granted under the benefits provisions of FQPA. Recognizes states’ rights to require warning or labels on food treated with pesticides, such as California’s Proposition 65.

Requires Reevaluation of Tolerances

Requires all existing pesticide residue tolerances to be reviewed within 10 years to ensure they meet the new health-based standard.

Changes the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act

  • Pesticide Reregistration Program: Reauthorizes and increases user fees from $14 million to $16 million each year; the fees cover review of older pesticides to ensure they meet current standards. Makes reassessment of tolerances part of reregistration.
  • Pesticide Registration Renewal: Requires EPA periodic review of pesticide registrations to establish a 15-year cycle to ensure that all pesticides meet new safety standards.
  • Registration of Reduced-Risk Pesticides: Provides for quick review of reduced-risk pesticides to enable them to reach the market sooner to replace older, potentially more risky chemicals.
  • Minor-Use Pesticides: Establishes minor-use programs in EPA and USDA to coordinate use issues and policy and provides a revolving grant fund to develop data necessary to register minor- use pesticides.

Also encourages minor-use registrations through extensions for submitting pesticide residue data and exclusive use of data, flexibility to waive certain data requirements, and requiring EPA to expedite review of minor use applications.

Read More at:


C’mon already! We’re talking about 10 to 15 YEARS here of already knowing about the urgency of this problem!


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