Every time we choose to buy organic, not only are we using our buying power to send a message to the companies that produce our food and clothing, but we are helping to support sustainable practices that will make the future better for our children.
On September 1, 2005, Chensheng Lu at School of Public Health at Emory University, along with colleagues at the CDC’s National Center for Environmental Health and at the University of Washington, released an important study that will soon appear in the NIH journal, Environmental Health Perspectives. At the beginning, every child in the study was found to have pesticides in the urine everyday, in every urine sample. The children were healthy American, suburban, elementary school kids. The pesticides were organophosphorus pesticides commonly used in food production – malathion and chlorpyrifos (Dursban) – both known to cause neurologic problems in animals and in humans. After establishing the baseline pesticide exposure, the researchers made the simplest of changes: the kids were switched to organic versions of the foods they were eating anyway. They didn’t make any changes in the types of foods they enjoyed. They didn’t make any other changes, such as in home gardening or insect control. With this simple diet change alone, the pesticides virtually disappeared from every child’s urine – within 24 hours! They enjoyed a pesticide-free holiday for 5 days, and then went back to their ‘normal’ diets. Within 24 hours the pesticides returned. They were again seen in 100% of urine samples, twice a day, in 100% of the children. Health outcomes were not followed in this study, but the authors believe intuitively that, “children whose diets consist of organic food items would have a lower probability of neurological health risks,” a known toxicity of these pesticides. For people who want to decrease chemical exposures in their kids, the many possible interventions that one could take can feel overwhelming. This study is the strongest evidence ever published that one simple change can make a difference, that “an organic diet provides a dramatic and immediate protective effect.” The study was supported by the EPA’s Science to Achieve Results (STAR) program
"Pesticides pose special concerns to children because of their high metabolisms and low body weights. More than 1 million children between the ages of 1 and 5 ingest at least 15 pesticides every day from fruits and vegetables. More than 600,000 of these children eat a dose of organophosphate insecticides that the federal government considers unsafe, and 61,000 eat doses that exceed benchmark levels by a factor of 10 or more." Source: Food for Thought: The Case for Reforming Farm Programs to Preserve the Environment and Help Family Farmers, Ranchers and Foresters, pages 12-13, found at www.environmentaldefense.org/pubs/Reports. Original source: Environmental Working Group, Overexposed: Organophosphate Insecticides in Children’s Food, 1998, pp. 1-3.
Toxic chemicals are contaminating groundwater on every inhabited continent, endangering the world’s most valuable supplies of freshwater, according to a WorldWatch paper. Cotton uses approximately 25 percent of the world’s insecticides and more than 10 percent of the pesticides (including herbicides, insecticides, and defoliants).Eighty-four million pounds of pesticides were sprayed on the 14.4 million acres of conventional cotton grown in the U.S. in 2000 (5.85 pounds/acre), ranking cotton second behind corn in total amount of pesticides sprayed, according to the US Department of Agriculture.Over 2.03 billion pounds of synthetic fertilizers were applied to conventional cotton the same year (142 pounds/acre), making cotton the fourth most heavily fertilized crop behind corn, winter wheat, and soybeans.To put these numbers in perspective, it takes roughly one-third of a pound of chemicals (pesticides and fertilizers) to grow enough cotton for just one T-shirt.The Environmental Protection Agency considers seven of the top 15 pesticides used on cotton in 2000 in the United States as “possible”, “likely”, “probable” or “known” human carcinogens (acephate, dichloropropene, diuron, fluometuron, pendimethalin, tribufos and trifluralin).
We can all help to reduce the amount of pesticides used each year, by using our consumer dollars to buy products that are organic.