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Environ Health Perspect. Mar 2003; 111(3): 377–382.
PMCID: PMC1241395
Research Article
Organophosphorus pesticide exposure of urban and suburban preschool children with organic and conventional diets.
Cynthia L Curl, Richard A Fenske, and Kai Elgethun
Department of Environmental Health, School of Public Health and Community Medicine, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington, USA. ccurl@u.washington.edu
Abstract
We assessed organophosphorus (OP) pesticide exposure from diet by biological monitoring among Seattle, Washington, preschool children. Parents kept food diaries for 3 days before urine collection, and they distinguished organic and conventional foods based on label information. Children were then classified as having consumed either organic or conventional diets based on analysis of the diary data. Residential pesticide use was also recorded for each home. We collected 24-hr urine samples from 18 children with organic diets and 21 children with conventional diets and analyzed them for five OP pesticide metabolites. We found significantly higher median concentrations of total dimethyl alkylphosphate metabolites than total diethyl alkylphosphate metabolites (0.06 and 0.02 micro mol/L, respectively; p = 0.0001). The median total dimethyl metabolite concentration was approximately six times higher for children with conventional diets than for children with organic diets (0.17 and 0.03 micro mol/L; p = 0.0003); mean concentrations differed by a factor of nine (0.34 and 0.04 micro mol/L). We calculated dose estimates from urinary dimethyl metabolites and from agricultural pesticide use data, assuming that all exposure came from a single pesticide. The dose estimates suggest 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 appears to provide a relatively simple way for parents to reduce their children's exposure to OP pesticides.
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