|WHY ORGANIC IS THE HEALTHIEST CHOICE FOR KIDS
Few deep-seated instincts are stronger than parents’ desire to provide healthy food for
their children. It’s an emotional issue . . . and a confusing one for many new moms and
Organic from the start.
I tell parents it’s important to give their child the healthiest foods possible right from the
Like a growing number of other pediatricians, I advocate feeding kids organic foods
whenever possible. Growing children are developing brain function and internal organs
to last a lifetime, so their food should be the purest and most nutritious available.
Kids need a wider margin of safety.
Because young children are more vulnerable to developmental damage from pesticide
residues on foods, widening the margin of safety for them is appropriate.
Why are children especially vulnerable? Partly, it’s because of their fast growth and
speedy metabolisms, partly because of their smaller size, which means they eat more
fruits and vegetables in relation to their body weight than adults do.
Most tests done by the Environmental Protection Agency to set acceptable risk levels for
pesticide residues were conducted using 154-pound adult men, not 40-pound
preschoolers! In 1993, a congressionally mandated study by the National Academy of
Sciences expressed concern that existing methods of risk evaluation for pesticide
exposure were failing children. More recently, the Consumers Union and the
Environmental Working Group released studies confirming that children are over-
exposed even if their exposure is within legal limits. This situation is changing, but the
process is slow, and encumbered in bureaucracy. Our kids are young now—we can’t
Has organic been proven safer?
Some people challenge that organic foods have not been proved healthier than
conventional ones. I believe exactly the opposite to be true. Organic farmers have grown
safe, nutritious food for hundreds of years; conventional farming has been the norm for
a small fraction of that time, and its safety is still in the experimental stage.
Determining the safety of a conventional pesticide may take 30 years or more. We know
now, for example, that some of the older pesticides, such as DDT, caused serious
health problems in children. But this didn’t become evident until 30 years after the
substance was banned for environmental reasons. We may not see the full effects of
the new, subtler poisons we’re putting on crops for a long, long time.
Eating organic can help.
One of the ways I empower parents is to give them solid information they can use to
make healthy choices for their children.
A recent study conducted by the University of Washington tracked a group of preschool
children—18 with organic diets and 21 with conventional diets—and analyzed their
urine for evidence of exposure to five different kinds of toxic pesticides. Researchers
found that the average total was six- to almost nine-times higher for children with
conventional diets than for children with organic diets. They concluded that consuming
organic fruits and vegetables can provide a relatively simple means for parents to
reduce their children’s pesticide exposure.
What’s the best way to start?
If you can't go all organic, try starting with foods that will have the greatest impact. The
Environmental Working Group's "A Shopper's Guide to Pesticides in Produce" lists the
least contaminated and most contaminated. foods. This can be a useful guide in
selecting the most important organic produce to purchase. But it's even more important
to purchase organic meat, dairy, and eggs than fruits and vegetables so if you must
stretch your food budget, start with animal products.
When you choose organic, you’re not only protecting your family’s health, you’re
helping to protect the environment, too. The environment is our groundwater . . . it’s our
world. Organic is healthy for farmers, healthy for plants, healthy for animals, and healthy
for kids. It’s a legacy we can feel good about leaving to future generations.
Alan Greene MD FAAP
Restoring Harmony and Balance
Children’s Environmental Health Research Centers Studies Effect of Toxic
Exposures on Autism, ADHD, Hearing, Behavior, & Test Scores
Current evidence tells us that DDT was responsible for a host of medical problems and the deaths of
many children - but the link wasn’t proven until more than 30 years later! I’m certain that the dangers of
some chemicals in common use in the United States today have yet to be proven. However, in October
2001, the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) and the Environmental
Protection Agency (EPA) took a major step forward, announcing four new children's environmental
health research centers. They will look into environmental exposures that may contribute to autism and
ADHD. They will also investigate children's variable genetic susceptibility to different environmental
poisons, including the impact of exposure to mercury and PCBs. In addition they hope to measure the
impact of reducing exposures to pesticides, lead and tobacco smoke on children's hearing, behavior
and test scores. The four new centers will open in August 2002, joining eight already established in
1998. What a wonderful step forward for our children.
Alan Greene MD FAAP