Thursday, August 19, 2010

Another bad thing you can do to a fetus

Children who were exposed to organophosphate pesticides while still in their mother's womb were more likely to develop attention disorders years later. ... Organophosphate pesticides act by disrupting neurotransmitters, particularly acetylcholine, which plays an important role in sustaining attention and short-term memory. ... Many of these same UC Berkeley researchers are also finding that children with certain genetic traits may be at greater risk. ...

In the study on attention problems, researchers tested for six metabolites of organophosphate pesticides in mothers twice during pregnancy and in the children several times after birth. Together, the metabolites represent the breakdown products of about 80 percent of all the organophosphate pesticides used in the Salinas Valley.
The researchers then evaluated the children at age 3.5 and 5 years for symptoms of attention disorders and ADHD using maternal reports of child behavior, performance on standardized computer tests, and behavior ratings from examiners. They controlled for potentially confounding factors such as birthweight, lead exposure and breastfeeding.
Each tenfold increase in prenatal pesticide metabolites was linked to having five times the odds of scoring high on the computerized tests at age 5, suggesting a greater likelihood of a child having clinical ADHD. The effect appeared to be stronger for boys than for girls.
I'm not good at always washing fruit before putting it in the bowl nor veggies when I'm cooking, but this suggests that pregnant women, and people who cook for them, should fetishize washing fruits and veggies, make it as strong a stricture as not drinking.

My first thought is to ask why we are putting poisons like that on our food, and my second thought is the answer: We can't grow as much of the types of food people want to eat, as many people as want to eat it, at a price they are willing to pay, without industrial farming, which requires vast amounts of pesticides to sustain itself.

It's one of  those cases where the interests of the individual do not match the interests of the group. I would never use a pesticide on my home-grown tomatoes. I have some Safer Soap that I  haven't used in years, and I infused some olive oil with red peppers to spray on them, to try to deter the skunks, so I lose some tomatoes to bugs, but on the other hand, I don't eat any organophosphates with my tomatoes. (Terrible crop this year. Sparse crop of mostly mealy tomatoes. The one that has had any decent tomatoes is a Celebrity, but even it has had just a few tomatoes. Usually in August we're harvesting big basketfuls, but we're getting only a few per week, and them not very good. I blame the weather.)

But if the interest of the group is having enough food for everyone, we need pesticides, and a system for washing them off before we eat them. Maybe there's a way to clean them before packing at the grower. Keep the pesticide on the farm. 

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