Are the pesticides in my food dangerous?

Dr. Mehmet Oz, MD
Cardiology (Cardiovascular Disease)

The truth is, doctors don't know what the long-term effects of most pesticides will be. Watch this video to learn why pediatrician and Dr. Oz Show guest Alan Greene, MD, says he can't guarantee the safety of anyone's food.

This question has attracted a lot of attention from parents, government officials, and the scientific community. The prenatal and early childhood periods are thought to be the times when the developing nervous system in humans is most vulnerable to damage by a wide variety of chemicals, including pesticides. Several recent studies have shown that children whose mothers had higher levels of pesticides in their blood or urine during pregnancy were more likely to have lower scores on IQ, memory, and reasoning tests (Bouchard et al 2011; Engel et al 2011; Rauh et al 2011). Another study looked for a potential relationship between attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and pesticides in children and adolescents between 8 and 15 years of age. This study found that the children and adolescents with higher levels of pesticides in their urine had greater odds of having ADHD. However, none of these studies were able to ascertain where the pregnant women or children/adolescents were exposed to pesticides. We are exposed to pesticides on a regular basis through a variety of sources, including foods and the home environment. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) concluded in a 2012 report that organic produce contains lower levels of pesticides and that consuming organic produce reduces a child's exposure to pesticides, but that the health impact of such a reduction is unclear. 

Bouchard MF, Bellinger DC, Wright RO, Weisskopf MG. Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder and urinary metabolites of organophosphate pesticides. Pediatrics. 2010;125 (6).

Bouchard MF, Chevrier J, Harley KG, Kogut K, et al. 2011. Prenatal exposure to organophosphate pesticides and IQ in 7-year old children. Environ Health Pespect 119:1189–1195.; doi:10.1289/ehp.1003185 [Online 21 April 2011]

Engel SM, Wetmur J, Chen J, Zhu C, et al. 2011. Prenatal exposure to organophosphates, paraoxonase 1, and cognitive development in childhood. Environ Health Perspect 119:1182–1188.; doi:10.1289/ehp.1003183 [Online 21 April 2011]

Forman J, Silverstein J, COMMITTEE ON NUTRITION and COUNCIL ON ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH. 2012. Organic Foods: Health and Environmental Advantages and Disadvantages. Pediatrics 130(5)::e1406-15. doi: 10.1542/peds.2012-2579

Rauh V, Arundjadai S, Horton M, Perera F, et al. 2011. Seven-year neurodevelopmental scores and prenatal exposure to chlorpyrifos, a common agricultural pesticide. Environ Health Perspect 119:1196–1201.; doi:10.1289/ehp.1003160 [Online 21 April 2011]

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.