Early Exposure to Pesticide: Revisited
Last month DiseaseProof.com examined whether or not consuming organic food is safer than eating standard produce that may contain pesticide residue. In Disease Proof Your Child Dr. Fuhrman explains this only represents a negligible risk and that the real concern should be with early exposure to chemical cleaners, insecticides, weed killers, and compounds used in pressure-treated wood. These materials can cause a myriad of health problems including cancers such as leukemia.
Recently FoodConsumer.org published an article written by David Liu Ph.D. supporting the claim that household insecticides are linked to childhood leukemia. Dr. Liu cites a new French study:
In the case-control study, Florence Menegaux, Ph.D. of INSERM (France's national institute for medical research) and colleagues compared the cases with 288 matched controls that did not have diagnosed cancer.
The mothers in both groups were interviewed for exposure to insecticides during pregnancy and early years of their children. Their socioeconomic status, education, family medical history, and their child's pre and postnatal characteristics were surveyed. The hazard risk factors included gardening chemicals, fertilizer, herbicides, insecticides, and fungicides, among others…
…Exposure to insecticides in the garden during childhood was also linked with a nearly doubled risk of acute leukemia. Considering exposure to gardening insecticides both in childhood and during pregnancy, the risk was 20 percent higher than controls.
Exposure to bug spray at home during pregnancy and childhood was associated with a doubled risk of acute leukemia.
Exposure to both garden insecticide and fungicide during childhood was also associated with a more than doubled risk.
The toxins associated with conventional produce are hardly the only ones worth limiting. (More on that from the previous post about organic food.) In his book Eat to Live Dr. Fuhrman explains why residue on produce shouldn't be your chief concern:
The effects of ingesting pesticides in the very small amounts present in vegetation are unknown. Bruce Ames, Ph.D., director of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences Center at the University of California at Berkeley, who has devoted his career to examining this question, believes these minute amounts pose no risk at all.
He and other scientists support this view because humans and other animals are exposed to small amounts of naturally occurring toxins with every mouthful of organically grown, natural food. The body normally breaks down self-produced metabolic wastes and naturally occurring carcinogens in foods, as well as pesticides, and excretes these harmful substances every minute. Since 99.99 percent of the potential carcinogenic chemicals consumed are naturally present in all food, reducing our exposure to the 0.01 percent that are synthetic will not reduce cancer rates.
These scientists argue that humans ingest thousands of natural chemicals that typically have a greater toxicity and are present at higher doses than the very minute amount of pesticide residue that remains on food. Furthermore, animal studies on the carcinogenic potential in synthetic chemicals are done at doses a thousand-fold higher than what is ingested in food. Ames argues that a high percentage of all chemicals, natural or not, are potentially toxic in high doses—"the dose makes the poison"—and that there is no evidence of possible cancer hazards from the tiny chemical residue remaining on produce.