Organic Diets Significantly Lower Children's Dietary Exposure to Organophosphorus Pesticides

Chensheng Lu; Kathryn Toepel; Rene Irish; Richard A. Fenske; Dana B. Barr; Roberto Bravo


Environ Health Perspect. 2006;114(2):260-3. 

In This Article

Abstract and Introduction

We used a novel study design to measure dietary organophosphorus pesticide exposure in a group of 23 elementary school-age children through urinary biomonitoring. We substituted most of children's conventional diets with organic food items for 5 consecutive days and collected two spot daily urine samples, first-morning and before-bedtime voids, throughout the 15-day study period. We found that the median urinary concentrations of the specific metabolites for malathion and chlorpyrifos decreased to the nondetect levels immediately after the introduction of organic diets and remained nondetectable until the conventional diets were reintroduced. The median concentrations for other organophosphorus pesticide metabolites were also lower in the organic diet consumption days; however, the detection of those metabolites was not frequent enough to show any statistical significance. In conclusion, we were able to demonstrate that an organic diet provides a dramatic and immediate protective effect against exposures to organophosphorus pesticides that are commonly used in agricultural production. We also concluded that these children were most likely exposed to these organophosphorus pesticides exclusively through their diet. To our knowledge, this is the first study to employ a longitudinal design with a dietary intervention to assess children's exposure to pesticides. It provides new and persuasive evidence of the effectiveness of this intervention.

The National Research Council (NRC) report Pesticides in the Diets of Infants and Children (NRC 1993) concluded that dietary intake represents the major source of pesticide exposure for infants and children, and this exposure may account for the increased pesticide-related health risks in children compared with adults. However, direct quantitative assessment of dietary pesticide exposure in children to support this conclusion is no simple task: Several studies (Adgate et al. 2000; Fenske et al. 2002; Gordon et al. 1999; MacIntosh et al. 2001) have analyzed pesticides in representative samples of children's food, and only two have used biologic monitoring to specifically examine dietary exposures (Curl et al. 2003; MacIntosh et al. 2001). The paucity of exposure data renders the debate over pesticide-related health risks in children controversial (Flower et al. 2004; Garry 2004; Reynolds et al. 2005). Nevertheless, those studies have provided valuable information on dietary pesticide exposure among children and have prompted the needs to improve research methods in order to better assess children's exposure to pesticides through dietary intake.

The primary objective of this study is to use a novel study design to determine the contribution of daily dietary pesticide intake to the overall pesticide exposure in a group of elementary school-age children using a longitudinal approach. Here we report only results of urinary specific metabolites of organophosphorus (OP) pesticides, a group of insecticides known to cause neurologic effects in animals and humans, for the summer 2003 sampling period. Results of pyrethroid pesticides for the same summer sampling period, as well as results from other sampling periods, will be reported as soon as they become available.


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