Environmental toxins and health: the health impact of pesticides

Environmental toxins and health: the health impact of pesticides

Cohen, M. Environmental Toxins and Health: The Health Impact of Pesticides. Australian Family Physician, 2007, 36(12) 1002-1004

Abstract

 

BACKGROUND:
Pesticides, including insecticides, herbicides and fungicides, are widely used in Australian agriculture. There is growing public concern about their impact on human health.
OBJECTIVE:
This article reviews the available evidence about the potential chronic health effects of pesticides, particularly relating to children and breastfeeding women, and discusses the potential role of organic food in decreasing risk.
DISCUSSION:
Exposure to pesticides can occur directly from occupational, agricultural and household use, and indirectly through the diet. Studies suggest that pesticides may be related to various diseases, including cancers, as well as having neurological, mental and reproductive effects. Children may be more susceptible to the effects of pesticides due to increased exposure via food and breast milk, underdeveloped detoxification pathways, and longer life expectancy in which to develop diseases with long latency periods. Some studies suggest that organic food consumption may lead to reduced pesticide exposure, however, there is a lack of direct evidence that organic food is a healthier option. Recommendations to minimise pesticide exposure include avoiding the use of pesticides at home or in the garden, limiting skin exposure to pesticides through the use of appropriate protective gear, and consuming organic food.

Human consumption of agricultural toxicants from organic and conventional food

Human consumption of agricultural toxicants from organic and conventional food

Oates, L, Cohen, M, (2009) Human consumption of agricultural toxicants from organic and conventional food. Journal of Organic Systems. 4 (1) p48-57

Abstract

 

Over the past 60 years both the number of agricultural toxicants in use and rates of toxin-related diseases have increased dramatically, and countless studies attest to a link between the two. While data from residue surveys confirms higher levels of toxicants in conventionally farmed produce, few studies directly assess
whether consuming organic produce results in a reduction in pesticide exposure in humans or confers any health benefits. Future research needs to confirm whether and to what extent agricultural toxicant levels vary between consumers of organic and conventional produce before attempting to draw any conclusions about
the potential health implications of such differences.

Reduction in urinary organophosphate pesticides metabolites in adults after a week-long organic diet

Reduction in urinary organophosphate pesticides metabolites in adults after a week-long organic diet

Oates, L., Cohen, M., Braun, L., Schembri, A., Taskova, R. (2014) Reduction in Urinary Organophosphate Pesticides Metabolites in Adults after a Week-Long Organic Diet. Environmental Research 132: 105-111

Abstract

 

BACKGROUND: Conventional food production commonly uses organophosphate (OP) pesticides, which can have negative health effects, while organic food is deemed healthier because it is produced without these pesticides. Studies suggest that organic food consumption may significantly reduce OP pesticide exposure in children who have relatively higher pesticide exposure than adults due to their different diets, body weight, behaviour and less efficient metabolism.
OBJECTIVES: A prospective, randomised, crossover study was conducted to determine if an organic food diet reduces organophosphate exposure in adults.
METHODS: Thirteen participants were randomly allocated to consume a diet of at least 80% organic or conventional food for 7 days and then crossed over to the alternate diet. Urinary levels of six dialkylphosphate metabolites were analysed in first-morning voids collected on day 8 of each phase using GC-MS/MS with detection limits of 0.11-0.51 μg/L.
RESULTS: The mean total DAP results in the organic phase were 89% lower than in the conventional phase (M=0.032 [SD=0.038] and 0.294 [SD=0.435] respectively, p=0.013). For total dimethyl DAPs there was a 96% reduction (M=0.011 [SD=0.023] and 0.252 [SD=0.403] respectively, p=0.005). Mean total diethyl DAP levels in the organic phase were half those of the conventional phase (M=0.021 [SD=0.020] and 0.042 [SD=0.038] respectively), yet the wide variability and small sample size meant the difference was not statistically significant.
CONCLUSIONS: The consumption of an organic diet for one week significantly reduced OP pesticide exposure in adults. Larger scale studies in different populations are required to confirm these findings and investigate their clinical relevance.