Eating organic reduces pesticide exposure

Photo Credit: Patrick Feller Photo Credit: Patrick Feller

A recent study published in Environmental Health Perspectives has confirmed that choosing organic does, in fact, reduce consumer exposure to pesticides. The study aimed to (1) estimate long-term dietary exposure to organophosphate pesticide residues for individuals, (2) check the accuracy of the estimates and (3) determine whether choosing organic fruits and vegetables lowered pesticide exposure. Four thousand participants from major cities across the nation completed surveys regarding their fruit and vegetable consumption and the frequency in which they chose organic or conventional produce. Scientists then used the survey data along with data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Pesticide Data Program on average pesticide residue levels for those same food items in order to estimate the amount of pesticide residues each participant was exposed to on a daily basis. Scientists then checked the accuracy of their estimations by measuring the amount of dialkyl phosphate (DAP)—a by-product created when the body breaks down organophosphates—in the urine from a subset of participants. They also compared the amount of DAP in the urine of people who reportedly ate conventional diets with those who ate organic diets. The results confirmed that their calculations of daily pesticide residue consumption levels were accurate, and that even when consumers chose organic “at least occasionally,” they had significantly less of the pesticide by-product, DAP, in their urine than consumers who primarily chose conventional produce.