Publix GreenWise Market Magazine - Summer 2011
ADHD and the Pesticide Connection
|Experts say going organic may help prevent behavior issues in kids. |
Youngsters with ADHD tend to be impulsive and easily distracted, interrupt often and have trouble following instructions. One in 10 American children ages 4 to 17 has been diagnosed with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, causing major difficulties for them at home and at school.
That's why it's so alarming that the behavior disorder is on the rise, increasing 22 percent from 2003 to 2007. No one knows the exact reason for this jump, but recent scientific studies may hold the key. If the researchers are right, the choices you make in the supermarket and in your kitchen may help shield your children.
Decoding the Science
Scientists have long suspected that toxins, food additives and environmental influences might play a role in attention disorders. Lately, some of their focus has shifted to pesticides.
Researchers at Harvard and the University of Montreal discovered that the odds of having ADHD nearly doubled in kids whose urine contained above-average levels of the chemicals known as organophosphates (Pediatrics, 2010). Organophosphates, widely used in pesticides and insecticides, are so highly toxic they can be employed as agents of chemical warfare.
If true, the connection between ADHD and organophosphates is of serious concern, says the study's lead researcher, Marc Weisskopf, Ph.D., assistant professor of environmental and occupational epidemiology at the Harvard School of Public Health.
Although additional studies are needed to confirm his team's findings, Weisskopf recommends that parents wash all produce and be aware of the pesticides and insecticides they use around their homes.
Influences in Utero
In a 2009 study, another team of Harvard researchers discovered that in utero exposure to organophosphates could increase the chances that children, especially boys, will develop attention problems by age 5.
In a third study, published in 2010, researchers tested urine samples from 538 pregnant women who were living in the farmlands of Salinas County, California. More than 78 percent of the women's samples contained detectable levels of organophosphates.
Remove Pesticides like a Pro
"We don't want to send a message that would make people eat fewer fruits and vegetables," says Sharon Sagiv, Ph.D., assistant professor of environmental health at Boston University School of Public Health. She says to thoroughly wash produce and eat organic whenever possible.
But even organic produce can have pesticide residue, says Walter J. Krol, Ph.D., a scientist with the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station in New Haven. He tested the best way to remove the residue on any produce. "We found that rinsing produce and rubbing it gently under running water for 30 seconds was just as effective as any of the rinses," he says.
Heather DeGaetano, a Publix shopper in Chattanooga, Tennessee, always washes her produce. She went organic 10 years ago to protect against toxins in food. "I think healthy eating is one of the most important things I can teach my [4-year-old] daughter," she says.
Organic Baby Food: A Great Way to Start
It's easier than ever to give your baby a healthy diet from the beginning. Today's pure, organic baby foods make it simple to ensure that your little one's first bites will be free of pesticides, artificial colors and other food additives. Check your neighborhood Publix for Gerber or Earth's Best organic baby foods, which include formula, cereal, pureed fruits and veggies, and toddler meals. To learn more, visit gerber.com