A recent study at Columbia University shows that pesticides might cause ADHD in children.
The findings of the study did in fact indicate that children with higher levels of organophosphate metabolites were more likely to meet the diagnostic criteria for ADHD.
Carl Winter, a UC Davis food toxicologist who works with chemical contamination in the food supply, cautioned people not to get too concerned yet.
“From my perspective the first thing people need to do is realize that this study provides a weak correlation, not a cause and effect relationship,” Winter said. “A single study isn’t proof.”
The study tested urine samples from 1,139 children from ages eight to 15 who were representative of the U.S. population in order to determine if the levels of pesticide metabolites present in the samples were predictive of ADHD.
Winter said the study was just preliminary and that as a scientist, he’d like to see additional research done. However, he also explained that such follow up studies are likely to take a long time since it takes years to find federal or other sources of funding to analyze thousands of samples.
“I think that it’s important that consumers not get too worked up over this,” he said. “People might reduce consumption of fruits and vegetables which is one of the worst things they can do for their health.”
Beth Post, a psychology professor and a mother of an 11-year-old said that it was mainly because of problems resulting from the use of pesticides that she chooses to buy organic foods.
“The market didn’t allow it [earlier],” she said. “It was hard to find organic food but now the markets have responded so it’s more available.”
She stated that while she’d always preferred organic food, after having her child, she completely switched to organic products even when buying milk or frozen foods.
However, Samantha Mauro, a first-year math major and vegetarian of two years, said studies like these wouldn’t cause her to reduce her consumption of fruits and vegetables.
“I’d probably choose more [based] on price than that,” she said.
Winter also added that if people were extremely concerned about pesticides, they could purchase organic foods and wash fruits and vegetables before consuming them. He also stated another reason to wash fruits and vegetables was to prevent health problems due to microorganisms. He said that in a given year, 76 million people get food-borne illness due to microorganisms.
“For that reason alone, it’s a very good idea to wash before consuming them though it may also reduce residues of pesticides,” he said.
Winter emphasized again the importance of not basing decisions on unsubstantiated theoretical evidence that was a simple hypothesis based on correlation. He encouraged people to keep eating fruits and vegetables in order to stay healthy.
AKSHAYA RAMANUJAM can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.