Sweet poison

High levels of pesticides in fruits in the US could harm children

 
Published: Saturday 04 July 2015

 Children in the US are consum millions of children in the United States are exposed to unsafe levels of potentially toxic pesticide residues. According to a study by Consumers Union, publisher of the magazine Consumer Reports , as little as a single serving of some popular fruits and vegetables may contain enough chemicals to exceed safety recommendations.

The study found consistently high rates of pesticide contamination in seven common types of produce and processed foods. It concluded that children are most at risk as not only are their bodies more sensitive but also because they consume more fresh fruit per pound than adults. "Our findings certainly do not mean that parents should stop giving their children plenty of healthy produce. But parents might want to be careful about the amount and types of fruits and vegetables they serve to their children," said Edward Groth, Consumers' Union's technical policy and public service director.

But these findings were quickly disputed by agricultural and chemical trade groups. Some criticised the study's methods and others warned that the report could undermine children's health by discouraging parents from offering fresh produce. "Reports like this alarm parents and may drive them to serve fewer fruits and vegetables for dinner," said JayVroom, president of the American Crop Protection Association. The Environmental Protection Agency, which regulates pesticide use, is revising its regulations with the specific intent of reducing the risk of harmful exposure to children.

The Consumers' Union report, the first of its kind, was based on an analysis of 27,000 food samples tested by the us Agriculture Department from 1994 to 1997. The researchers assigned a toxicity "score" to dissent foods based on the average level and toxicity of the pesticides they carried. Fresh peaches contained the highest residue of the pesticide methyl parathion, a nerve agent. Other foods that had consistently high toxicity values were apples, grapes, spinach, pears and green beans. Scoring low on the toxicity scale were bananas, broccoli, orange juice and milk, as well as frozen and canned corn.

Two out of five children who eat a peach were likely to consume enough of the pesticide to exceed the epa 's safety recommendation, the study said. The report's authors say that many children develop stomach problems and other symptoms from pesticide ingestion each year. But parents and doctors do not often link those symptoms to pesticides. Over the long term, pesticide ingestion may cause serious health problems, they said.

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