Exposure to pesticides begins in the womb, when the baby gets in contact with the chemicals that are deposited in his/her mom’s placenta. When the baby is born, part of the chemicals in the mother’s body can pass from the fat tissue into the breast milk. Later on, the child gets exposed to the chemicals in his/her food, in the air, in the water and the cosmetic products he/she gets in contact with. During our lifetime, our bodies can accumulate significant quantities of pesticides that can become dangerous and that usually affect us when our bodies get older and weaker. A considerable number of diseases associated with old age – such as prostate and kidney cancer, thyroid disorders and Parkinson’s disease – have been linked to high levels of pesticides and other chemicals accumulating in the body.
But here is the GOOD NEWS: it can, at least partially, be REVERSED! A scientific study titled “Reduction in urinary organophosphate pesticide metabolites in adults after a week-long organic diet” suggests that replacing conventional food with organic food may significantly reduce the level of organophosphate pesticides in our bodies.
What are Organophosphates? Good Question.
Organophosphates (OP) are a type of synthetic chemicals that are used in agriculture, home, garden and veterinary practice with the purpose of poisoning certain insects or animals. According to the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), organophosphates are “not likely” to build up to high or dangerous levels in animal or plant foods that you might eat. But, even so, eating contaminated food remains one of the main sources of exposure to organophosphates.
Can we get sick from OP exposure?
According to the CDC, depending on the type of exposure, symptoms of OP contamination can range from:
* Nausea and vomiting
* Watery eyes
* Small pupils
To severe symptoms such as:
Even long after exposure, people can also develop nervous system problems such as muscle weakness and numbness and tingling of the hands and feet (neuropathy).
Regarding the connection between OP exposure and cancer, CDC says that we just don’t have enough information yet. There are some studies that have linked organophosphate exposure to lymphoma and leukaemia and in lab rat’s studies on different organophosphates have shown more adrenal, thyroid and pancreatic tumours.
Also, although there is not enough clear evidence yet to suggest that OP exposure can affect human reproduction or development, some organophosphates are considered to cause lower birth weights and a higher rate of death in new-born animals.
Back to the Study…
Although we clearly need more scientific research to correctly assess the impact that these types of pesticides can have on our bodies, there is enough data already suggesting that they should be avoided as much as possible. How can we do that? By replacing conventional food with organic food whenever possible. This does not only reduces exposure, but also helps our body eliminate the chemicals that were deposited along the years.
The study involved 13 Australian adults who consumed, in separate phases of the study, each lasting 7 days, a largely (more than 80%) organic diet and a largely conventional diet. Participants consumed an average of 93% of their food servings from organic produce in the organic phase (this included 83% certified organic produce) and 96% conventional produce during the conventional phase.
Urinary levels of six metabolites produced from organophosphates were analysed. The consumption of organic food for 7 days resulted in a significant reduction in urinary organophosphates metabolites – 89% lower than in the conventional phase and there was a 96% reduction in urinary dimethyl phosphate.
According to the authors, their conclusion that the consumption of a largely organic diet results in a statistically significant reduction in organophosphate pesticide exposure is consistent with the conclusion of a previous similar study (Curl et al. 2003) that focused on the effects of an organic diet on organophosphates exposure in children. The results suggested that consumption of organic fruits, vegetables and juice can reduce children’s exposure levels from above to below the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s current guidelines, thereby shifting exposures from a range of uncertain risk to a range of negligible risk. Consumption of organic produce appeared, therefore, to provide a relatively simple way for parents to reduce their children’s exposure to OP pesticides.
Make smart choices whenever you can!
Organophosphates can get into your body through the foods you eat, but they can also be present in the cosmetic products you use, if the plants or other ingredients in their composition have been contaminated. So always take your time to read the labels carefully and do not be misled by marketing terms such as “natural” or “100% natural ingredients”.
Natural does NOT mean uncontaminated! Therefore, whenever possible, opt for products that are labelled “Organic” or “100% Organic”. Organic products have extremely strict production and labelling requirements.