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Ozone Research: Food and Water Purification

Introduction to: Pesticides in Children's Foods

Pesticides in Children's Foods1


You can't control pesticide use by the agricultural industry...
Ozonate your Food to Remove Pesticides, Chemicals, and Antibiotics
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In last year’s report, we analyzed four years (1994-1997) of data from the US Department of Agriculture’s Pesticide Data Program (PDP), assessing problems of pesticides in children’s foods and comparing relative residue profiles of different foods. Using a Toxicity Index (TI) that CU invented for this purpose, based on the frequency of detection and mean residue level of each pesticide detected in a food, and on a multi-factor toxicity index for each chemical, we found very large differences in pesticide residue toxicity among foods. High scores on CU’s Toxicity Index can result from multiple residues, from residues in a large fraction of samples, from high residue levels, from residues of relatively toxic pesticides, or, in most cases, from a combination of these factors.

We highlighted foods last year that consistently had either especially high TI’s, meaning they were relatively heavily contaminated with pesticides, or consistently low scores, meaning they were relatively residue-free. In our
1999 report, and in an article based on it in CONSUMER REPORTS magazine, we ranked PDP-tested foods in order of their relative TI scores. We advised consumers to feed their children plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, while showing them how to avoid excessive pesticide residue intake. And, based on our analysis of the residue profiles of foods with the high TI scores, we suggested regulatory priorities for the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

This year’s Update incorporates the 1998 PDP data into our analysis. The additional year’s data expands our database to cover five years, and adds a number of foods not previously tested by the PDP to the list ranked by TI scores. New foods fall in both the high-scoring and low-scoring groups.

This year, as last year, we compared TI’s for imported and domestically grown samples of foods for which imports are an important part of the market. Within that analysis this year, we have taken a detailed look at the tomato market, breaking it down into imports (Mexico) and U.S. samples from the two major tomato-growing regions, California and Florida.

Last year’s report identified 15 specific pesticides that repeatedly accounted for a large share of the TI score for particular foods. We called those high- risk chemicals “risk drivers.” This year’s report contains four ways to place risk-driving residues and pesticides into perspective. First, we look at the 1998 data and highlight residues in individual foods that account for a significant share of the higher TIs. We then look at those residues that pose a risk of giving a young child more than what the EPA defines as a “safe dose” of one of the more toxic pesticides, as either an acute (one-time) or chronic (repeated) exposure. We next examine chlorpyrifos, the most widely-used organophosphate insecticide in the U.S., describing the role it plays in dietary pesticide exposure and risk. Our final analysis looks at residues of chlorinated hydrocarbon insecticides (dieldrin, heptachlor, etc.). Although most agricultural uses of this pesticide family were banned in the 1970s, residues persist in soils, and they can be taken up through the roots by certain crops, leading to dietary residue problems.

In the year since our last report, we have reviewed and updated our scoring scheme (see Methods section ). Changes reflect both new toxicity assessments for specific chemicals, published by the EPA in the past year, and our own reassessment of certain aspects of our scoring scheme, in part in response to comments we received after we published last year’s report. The revisions have changed the Toxicity Indices for individual pesticides, which in turn changes the TI scores for foods found by the PDP to contain residues of those pesticides.

Since the scoring scheme has changed, TI values for 1998 PDP foods cannot be compared directly with the TI scores we published last year for 1994-97 PDP foods. To do those comparisons, we have re-calculated the scores for 1994-97 PDP foods, using our revised TI values for individual pesticides.

The scores for most foods have changed slightly from the scores published last year; in a few cases the absolute TI score for a food changed markedly. But in virtually all cases, the changes did not significantly affect the relative scores for different foods we compared in last year’s report.1

Goto the Next Section: Methods: Updating the CU Scoring Scheme


Bibliography and References

1 This report was compiled in May of 2000, by the Consumers Union of the United States, Inc. Public Service Projects Department, Technical Division
Edward Groth III, PhD, Project Director
Charles M. Benbrook, PhD, Consultant
Karen Lutz, MS, Consultant
The analysis was supported in part by the Pew Charitable Trusts, the Joyce Foundation and the W. Alton
Jones Foundation.


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