Earlier this year, a Swedish family switched to an all-organic diet, and found that the levels of pesticides detectable in their bodies dropped dramatically.
Now, a larger study conducted in California has come to a similar conclusion. The study followed 40 children, 20 who live in Oakland and 20 who live 100 miles south in Salinas. Because Salinas is an agricultural community, the children who live there are found to have higher overall levels of pesticides, as measured by urine samples.
The children participating in the study ate a conventional diet for four days, followed by an organic diet for seven days, and then went back to a conventional diet for another five days. The researchers collected urine samples each day. None of the families participating in the study eat organic food regularly.
The researchers found that some of the detectable pesticides dropped significantly when the children were eating an organic diet, regardless of location. Of the six most commonly detected pesticides, two were cut in half and levels of one herbicide fell by 25 percent. This suggests that diet is a significant source of children's exposure to the chemicals in pesticides.
Other exposures to pesticides may include the household use of certain chemicals for treating insect infestations, living near fields where pesticides are used in agriculture, and “take-home” exposure from parents who work in agricultural settings that use these chemicals.
However, the researchers stressed that their study doesn’t mean that all non-organic foods should be avoided. “There’s evidence that diet is one route of exposure to pesticides, and you can reduce your exposure by choosing organic food,” lead author Asa Bradman told The New York Times. “But I would never say that conventional fruits and vegetables are unsafe. They’re all healthy.”
The study’s results are published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives.