Entries in Pesticides (6)


Pesticides in Tap Water Linked to Food Allergies

BananaStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- As food allergies become increasingly common, a new study offers the first proof that they may be linked to pesticides found in tap water.

Researchers at the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology used existing government data to see whether people with more dichlorophenols in their urine were more likely to have food allergies.  Dichlorophenols are a kind of chlorine in certain pesticides that are known to kill bacteria -- and in theory, they could be killing the naturally occurring bacteria in humans’ digestive systems, causing food allergies.

“We wanted to see if there was an association between certain pesticides and food allergies, and we were specifically interested in dichlorophenols because those were the ones that had this antibacterial effect,” said lead researcher Dr. Elina Jerschow.  “When researchers have compared bacteria from the bowel in healthy kids versus bacteria in the bowel for kids that have lot of allergies, they’ve noticed a big difference.”

The number of children and teens with food or digestive allergies in the United States has increased 18 percent between 1997 and 2007, according to a 2008 study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  That’s about three million people under age 18.

Eggs, fish, milk, peanuts, shellfish, soy, tree nuts and wheat make up 90 percent of food allergies, according to the CDC report.  Symptoms can range from mouth tingling to anaphylaxis, which is the swelling of the throat and tongue and can lead to death.

Jerschow clarified that the researchers were only looking for a statistical association, meaning they were not able to examine patients to see how these chemicals physically caused their allergies.  Because it’s only an association, these findings could mean that the chemicals caused the food allergies, or it could mean the food allergies caused the chemicals in the urine.  That part is not yet clear.

“While the study does not allow concluding that pesticides are responsible for the allergies, it certainly raises the possibility and justifies pursuing the kinds of studies that can help sort of if these pesticides are, indeed, the cause,” said Dr. Kenneth Spaeth, who directs the Occupational and Environmental Medicine Center at North Shore University Hospital.  He was not a researcher involved in the study.

Spaeth said the study's findings fit in with growing evidence that pesticide exposure can damage the immune system, which could increase allergies as well.

Researchers were surprised to find that dichlorophenol levels in urine didn’t vary between urban and rural areas, Jerschow said.  They concluded that even those who opted for bottled water instead of tap water could ingest the pesticide chemical from eating fruit, fruit juices and foods with cocoa powder, like chocolate.

As such, Jerschow said the research is still too preliminary to suggest that Americans should change their eating or drinking habits.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Pesticides in Fruits and Vegetables: Are They Really Healthy?

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- You know you should eat your fruits and vegetables, but with a "dirty dozen" list of pesticide-contaminated produce out Monday and the recent E. coli outbreak linked to supposedly safer organic produce, what's a would-be healthy eater to do?

The answer from health experts -- and even the people who did the study on pesticide residue in produce -- is still the same: Eat those fruits and vegetables, but get them as clean as you can.

The importance of washing produce before eating or cooking it was driven home Monday by the release of a "dirty dozen" list of fruits and vegetables that tested positive for the highest concentration of pesticides.

Apples, a staple in many refrigerators, topped the list with 98 percent testing positive for a pesticide and 92 percent testing positive for two or more pesticides. Coming in second was celery, with more than 95 percent testing positive for at least one pesticide.

Others on the list of shame include: strawberries, peaches, spinach, nectarines, grapes, sweet bell peppers, potatoes, blueberries, lettuce and kale or collard greens.

The benefits of fruits and vegetables are well known. However Environmental Working Group spokesman Alex Formuzis says the pesticides they're coated with have been linked to nervous system toxicity, cancer, hormone system disruption and IQ deficits in children.

But even though some pesticides were still found on the produce after they were washed and peeled, Formuzis said the benefits of fruits and vegetables still outweigh the problems associated with some other snack foods.

Pesticides, which are regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency, are used to protect produce from bugs and also extend its supermarket shelf life.

The Alliance for Food and Farming, a trade group that opposes the new study, says consumers should keep eating the fruits and vegetables in the so-called "dirty dozen."

"Not only are farmers of fruits and vegetables meeting requirements set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for pesticide residues, but their crops are shown to have either no residues at all or with residues 10 times to 100 times below already stringent safety limits," said Teresa Thorne of the AFF.

The Environmental Working Group agrees that eating from the "dirty dozen" is better than not eating fruits and vegetables at all, but suggested that when possible, these items should be bought organic.

The Food and Drug Administration offers several tips for cleaning both fresh and organic produce, including wash fruits and vegetables under running water just before eating or cooking, use a brush to scrub produce with hard surfaces such as melons and cucumbers, and cut away any damaged or bruised areas on fruits and vegetables before preparing or eating.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Apples Top List of Pesticide-Laden Produce

Medioimages/Photodisc/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- An apple a day may keep the doctor away, but how good is that apple if it is laden with pesticides?

According to new report released Monday by the Environmental Working Group, apples are at the top of the advocacy group's list of most contaminated fruits and vegetables.

After testing 53 fruits and vegetables and the amount of chemicals left over after the produce was washed and peeled, the group found that 97.8 percent of all apples tested positive for pesticides and 92 percent of them had traces of two or more pesticides.

Coming in second on the list was celery, with 96 percent of all samples testing positive for pesticides, followed by strawberries in third.

Here is the Environmental Working Group's "Dirty Dozen" list:

1. Apples
2. Celery
3. Strawberries
4. Peaches
5. Spinach
6. Nectarines (imported)
7. Grapes (imported)
8. Sweet bell peppers
9. Potatoes
10. Blueberries (domestic)
11. Lettuce
12. Kale/collard greens

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Top 15 Least Contaminated Fruits, Vegetables

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- When it comes to fruits and vegetables, do you know which ones are safe to eat and which ones should be purchased organic because of heavy pesticides?

The Environmental Working Group has done the work for you by compiling a list of the top 12 most contaminated fruits and vegetables, called the "Dirty Dozen," and the top 15 least contaminated, or the "Clean 15."

According to EWG, people who eat five fruits and vegetables a day from the "Dirty Dozen" list consume an average of 10 pesticides a day.

EWG analysts developed this "Guide to Pesticides" based on data from nearly 89,000 tests for pesticide residues in produce conducted from 2000-08 and collected by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

'Dirty Dozen'

1. Celery
2. Peaches
3. Strawberries
4. Apples
5. Blueberries
6. Nectarines
7. Bell peppers
8. Spinach
9. Cherries
10. Kale/Collard greens
11. Potatoes
12. Grapes (imported)

'Clean 15'

1. Onions
2. Avocado
3. Sweet corn
4. Pineapple
5. Mangoes
6. Sweet peas
7. Asparagus
8. Kiwi
9. Cabbage
10. Eggplant
11. Cantaloupe
12. Watermelon
13. Grapefruit
14. Sweet potato
15. Honeydew melon

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Prenatal Pesticide Exposure Linked to Low IQ Later in Life

Hemera Technologies/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Expectant mothers exposed to agricultural chemicals could be putting their babies' cognitive development at risk, according to new research published Thursday as three independent studies in Environmental Health Perspectives.

The latest research links prenatal pesticide exposure (measured in the urine of mothers-to-be) to a lower IQ in children by age nine.  The research teams, from Mount Sinai School of Medicine, Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health and the school of public health at the University of California, Berkeley, all conclude that pesticide exposure during pregnancy could negatively affect brain development.

But a lack of controlled trials, for obvious reasons, makes it impossible to determine whether there is cause and effect.

"The biggest problem with these studies is they attempt to demonstrate an association when there has not yet been a mechanism identified that would explain how pesticides cause any of the abnormalities," said Dr. Donna Seger, associate professor of medicine at Vanderbilt University Medical Center and director of the Tennessee Poison Center.  "Because pesticide exposure and abnormal developmental occur in a specific patient population does not mean that one caused the other."

So-called "association studies" infuriate Ali Bergstrom -- a 34-year-old New York City-based blogger whose son was born with a rare birth defect called Goldenhar syndrome -- who said it's devastating to have a child who is disabled because of something that happened in the womb.

"When these studies come out and they say it's association and not cause and effect, it's very frustrating as a mother because I know something caused this.  It infuriates me."

But the three studies, which used different subjects and methods but arrived at similar conclusions, should raise a red flag that widely-used chemicals may have serious health consequences for unborn babies, according to Dr. Rodney Dietert, professor of immunotoxicology at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York.

"Taken together, these studies are an alarm that signals we have underestimated the risk from low level prenatal exposures to certain environmental chemicals," Dietert said.  "It seems clear that our current methods and applications for identifying environmental risks posed to critical physiological systems of children are inadequate."

Dietert is pushing for better safety testing to avoid surprises, such as the findings reported Thursday, years down the road.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Organic vs. Nonorganic: What Fruits and Veggies Should You Buy?

Brand X Pictures / Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- We all know that pesticides and other chemicals can cling to the foods we eat and most of us want to minimize our exposure. That's why some people buy organic. Scientists have shown that children age 5 and under, ingest an average of eight pesticides each day. And young children, whose internal organs and systems are developing rapidly, are particularly vulnerable to pesticides' harmful effects.

The best foods to buy organic are apples, bell peppers, carrots, celery and strawberries. And while there are many reasons to buy organic foods, not everyone can find fresh organic produce at their corner store, or afford the premium price tags, so it's important to remember that there are some smart shopping decisions we can make that will help us save money while also reducing the pesticides on our plates.

Organic is not the only option for people that want to reduce the amount of pesticides they consume. There are fruits and vegetables that are known for having very low pesticide residues – spring favorites like asparagus, avocado, sweet peas, grapefruit, onions and cabbage – and onions, avocado, sweet corn, pineapple and mango are generally regarded as some of the cleanest fruits and vegetables year-round.

Steps you can take to keep pesticides off your plate include always washing and peeling your produce, steam cooking leafy greens and giving the frozen organic version a try when the produce you want isn't available fresh.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio