Why Children, Pregnant Women Should Eat Food With Fewer Pesticides

“For many children, diet may be the most influential source” of pesticides, said the Academy of Pediatrics in a landmark report published in November 2012.

The Academy, which represents more than 60,000 pediatricians, advised parentsto “minimize using foods in which chemical pesticides were used” in order to reduce “unnecessary exposure.”

EWG agrees, which is why we issue the annual Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce. The guide encourages parents to make sure that their children eat plenty of healthy fruits and vegetables while minimizing their exposure to the pesticide residues found on some conventionally grown produce — even after it’s been thoroughly washed.

Experts who have dedicated their careers to protecting children from the risks of synthetic pesticides agree. Dr. Philip Landrigan, whose early research in the 1970s helped eliminate the use of lead in paint and gasoline, is one of the foremost authorities. He urges parents to feed children organic produce when feasible instead of conventionally grown products, especially those that have high amounts of pesticide residues.

“While there has been significant progress to reduce children’s exposure to the most toxic pesticides, we have learned even more about the capacity of these chemicals to harm the developing fetus and child,” says Landrigan, dean of global health and director of the Children’s Environmental Health Center at Mt. Sinai School of Medicine. “Parents looking for help in lowering their children’s exposure to pesticides while still eating plenty of healthy fruits and vegetables can turn to EWG’s guide as an easy-to-use resource when shopping at the store.”


Many kids, like my five- and seven-year olds, eat a lot of fruit. And children consume much more food relative to their body weight than adults do, which can increase the amount of pesticides they’re exposed to if they’re eating conventionally grown strawberries, apples and grapes. The brain and nervous systems of young children are far from fully developed and are exquisitely sensitive to disruption and damage from industrial chemicals, including pesticides.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture does the annual testing of pesticide residues that EWG uses to create its Shopper’s Guide. The most recent round found, among many others, one type of pesticides, called organophosphates, that have been strongly linked to attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD, in children. Diagnoses of ADHD in American children has surged in recent years, and leading researchers, including Landrigan, point to organophosphates as one of the driving factors.

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                                                                                                      Photo: Maximkabb Getty Images