A new study published this week in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives makes a strong case for serving organic fruits and vegetables to children.

The study found that more than one-quarter of the food eaten by U.S. children contained pesticides.

We already know that produce contains pesticides, right? Of course. Lots of studies have been done to measure the levels of pesticides in various types of food. What's new is that this study took a close look at the level of pesticides found in the food that children actually eat. 

For the study, researchers measured 14 varieties of pesticides in fruits, vegetables and juices. They attempted to capture the pesticide levels of foods just as they were prepared and in the amounts actually eaten by the children.

Researchers followed 46 elementary school-aged children from Georgia and Washington states for a full day. The children's parents provided an identical sample of each conventional fruit, vegetable and fruit juice that their child consumed that day. The samples were prepared the same way, from the same batch and in the same amount.

Next, the researchers tested the samples for several types of pesticides. So even though a rather short time period was used, these 24-hour duplicate food samples show precisely how much pesticide residue entered the children's bodies through their food that day.

In total, the food contained varying amounts of 14 different pesticides, including different organophosphates and pyrethroid insecticides. Nearly one-fifth of the food samples measured had at least one pesticide. Of those, more than one-quarter contained multiple pesticides in the same food sample.

Of course, we can't make snap judgments just based on this small study of one day's food consumption for 46 kids.  But, I would love to see a breakdown of exactly which types of foods these kids were eating. Which fruits and veggies were most common? Which foods were most contaminated?

Still, the new study provides important evidence that children's diets are a real source of pesticide exposure. It gives parents one more reason to buy organic for the foods that their kids eat.

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