Pesticides in Food - Evidence for harm
Compilation of the Research

There are two types of agriculture being used today. Conventional agriculture uses pesticides to kill insects and weeds and organic agriculture does not use petroleum based pesticides. In fact, it is common knowledge among organic farmers that growing food in high quality soils containing organic matter and natural micronutrients actually reduces pest problems. The theory here being that (like in humans) - a healthy plant will not get disease and also attracts far less insects.



Diabetes Children Have Higher Pesticide Levels

SOURCE: Journal of Clinical Toxicology, Vol. 2(6): 2012
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Does eating non-organic commercially grown food increase the rate of diabetes in children? This was one of several questions researchers at Mansoura University Children Hospital in Egypt wanted to answer. The study was started with 75 young children, all under age 10, who were recently diagnosed with type-1 diabetes. Blood samples were taken from 75 children with diabetes and 35 control children who did not have diabetes. Blood samples in both groups were then tested for nine different pesticides. This included the head-lice pesticide lindane, the farming/food pesticides malathion and chlorpyrifos and also the pesticides DDT and DDE. Most people assume DDT is no longer used, but this is incorrect as some countries in Africa and South America still use DDT in agriculture, and these foods are frequently exported into Europe and the United States, especially during the winter months. Another source of DDT in foods comes from a little publicized fact that the legal pesticide dicofol (routinely used on citrus) contains DDT as an unintended by-product during manufacture.

By comparing the pesticide blood test results between both groups of children, the doctors could easily see if any pattern exists. For example, if pesticide levels were the same in both groups, it suggests that pesticides do not harm the body in a way that increases diabetes. However, if pesticide levels are higher in children with diabetes, we then start painting a picture that eating conventional pesticide grown foods, living near agriculture or using pesticides in the home, may very well be a major contributing factor to diabetes.

Below are the results of the tests, and as can be seen, there is a very strong link suggesting that eating conventional pesticide grown food increases the rate of diabetes. All measurements are in levels of what is called nanograms per milliliter of blood

1. Healthy children had no mesureable levels of the pesticide lindane,
but diabetes children had a level of 0.54.

2. Healthy children had no measureable levels of the pesticide DDT, 
but diabetes children had levels of 0.20

3. Healthy children had no measurable levels of the pesticide DDE, 
but diabetes children had levels of 0.37

The same pattern was seen with the common pesticides chlorpyrifos and malathion. Chlorpyrifos levels were averaging .02 in the healthy non-diabeteic children and .24 in children with diabetes. Therefore, diabetes children had 12 times higher levels of this common pesticide.

The same pattern was also seen for the pesticide malathion. Healthy non-diabetic children had malathion levels of .03, but children with diabetes had blood levels 15 times higher at .54.

When using these numbers to determine increased risk from the pesticides, the researchers found that the children having high levels of malathion in their blood had a 4 times greater risk of developing diabetes than children with low levels of malathion.

In a related study described below, researchers found that switching to organic food resulted in a dramatic drop in malathion levels in children. When results of both of these studies are viewed together, it provides strong support for the importance of switching to a 100% organic diet for the 38% of the U.S. population with pre-diabetes and also for children newly diagnosed with type-1 diabetes.

Eating Organic Lowers Blood Pesticides in Children

SOURCE: Environmental Health Perspectives, 114(2): 260-263, Feb 2006
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Children eating organic food (foods grown without pesticides) were found to have dramatically lower levels of pesticides when compared to eating conventional pesticide grown foods.

In this study, conducted in part by the Centers for Disease Control, scientists studied the effects of eating organic (non-pesticide) food among 23 elementary school children ages 3 to 11. Each child was tested daily for pesticide levels over 15 consecutive days. During the first 5 days (called phase 1) - children consumed their typical (pesticide) food diets. During phase 2 (days 6 to 10) - children ate only organic foods. In phase 3 (days 11 to 15), all children switched back to eating conventional foods grown with pesticides.

RESULTS: During phase 2, while eating organic foods, all children showed a dramatic drop in pesticide levels of chlorpyrifos and malathion (see chart above). Average levels of malathion metabolites while eating conventional food was approximately 1.2 micrograms per liter (of urine) but after switching to organic foods dropped to about less then 0.1 micrograms/liter. This represents a 12-fold decrease in body pesticide levels going from pesticide grown foods to organic foods. For the pesticide chlorpyrifos, (which has been linked to many health disorders affecting the brain and weakening the immune system), levels were approximately 6 micrograms/liter before eating organic and then dropped to 2 micrograms per liter while eating organic (a 3-fold reduction). Both malthion and chlorpyrifos are used extensively in agriculture with chlropyrifos also being used in home pest and termite control prior to 2002.

In conclusion, the researchers stated,

We were able to demonstrate that an organic diet provides a dramatic and immediate protective effect against exposures to organophosphorus pesticides that are commonly used in agricultural production....The persistent existence of OP pesticide metabolites in urine during the conventional diet periods raises a concern of the possible chronic exposures to OP pesticides in children

Rollins School of Public Health, Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia, USA
University of Washington, Seattle, Washington, USA
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, Georgia, USA

CHEM-TOX COMMENT:  It is important that people realize that so-called safe levels of exposure are based upon studies done on "adults." Children have far lower levels of important liver enzymes that remove pesticides from the blood (i.e. paraoxanase) and this level can vary dramatically from one child to the next.. Therefore, chidren have pesticides remain in their blood for longer periods and at higher levels than adults. Also, critics of this study (such as those funded by agricultural interests) do not take into account that EPA guidelines on pesticide safety consider only at one pesticide at a time, however, children (and all of us) are exposed to many pesticides in food simulneously. This has been shown to result in far more harm than one pesticide alone, and can sometimes result in an exponential effect (1+1=100). Also, current EPA pesticide safety guidelines do not consider what is called subtle neurotoxicity (effects on learning/behavior) - subtle immune system effects (increased autoimmunity - lowering of white blood count - natural killer cell effects, etc.). The bottom line is that pesticides are designed specifically to kill - and our children are being exposed to small levels of these continuously in food. A follow-up study now needs to be done to determine if natural killer cells and autoimmunity are affected by these levels of pesticides.

ADHD Higher in Children
with higher blood levels of food pesticides

SOURCE:  Pediatrics, 125(6): e1270-e1277, June, 2010
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Levels of pesticides commonly found in food appear to be increasing the risk of children developing attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). This was the conclusion of a study conducted by Dr. Maryse F. Bourchard, PhD, and others at the Harvard School of Public Health.

1,139 children were assessed from the National Health & Nutrition Examination Survey (2000-2004). Of these 119 met the criteria for ADHD. Results showed that children with higher urinary levels of the pesticide dimethyl alkylphosphate (DAP) were twice as likely to be diagnosed with ADHD. DAP is a metabolite and marker of recent exposure to 75% of commonly used organophosphate pesticides in food. While most organophosphate pesticides have been removed from home use, they are still used as a pesticide on food and in mosquito control (e.g. malathion - Lorsban). Therefore, people consuming conventional chemically grown food or living near agriculture would be expected to have higher urinary levels of DAP, and therefore (according to these results), would be expected to experience higher rates of ADHD in children.

According to Dr. Phil Landrigan, M.D., professor and chair of the Department of Commmunity and Preventive Medicine at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York City - switching to organic food has been shown to reduce pesticides levels in the urine by 85-90%. Download the full journal article from the link above.

Maryse F. Bourchard, PhD, David C. Bellinger, PhD 
Robert O Writght, MD, MPH, Marc G. Weisskopf, PhD
Dept. of Environmental Health and Epidemiology,
School of Public Health, Harvard University, Boston, Massachusetts



Severe food Poisoning in 17 People
Watermelons found to have high levels of pesticides

SOURCE:, April 20, 2015
View story online from -  this link

17 residents in eastern China were hospitalized after eating watermelon containing high levels of pesticides.

Although this was not in the U.S., it shows how people can become ill by eating food containing pesticides. Of great concern is how many people develop smaller illnesses from pesticides in food but are not being linked to the chemical.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture only has resources to test less than 1% of the food coming into the U.S. from foreign countries.

One of the most absurd laws on the books in the U.S. is how pesticides such as DDT, dieldrin, chlordane and parathion, while banned in the U.S., are then sold by U.S. manufacturers to foreign countries - used on food crops there - and then imported back into the U.S. A high percentage of U.S. produce during the winter is grown in South America where these banned pesticdes are used.

Pesticides on Food - Diabetes Link

SOURCE: Indian Pediatrics, Volume 48:74, 2011
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Below is the "Abstract" from the listed journal describing a patient who became ill after eating several non-washed tomatoes:

A 12 year old male was brought to us with history of  fatiguability, vomiting and loose stools for 6 hours. There was no history of fever, convulsion, and altered sensorium. The vitals were stable except some dehydration. Investigations revealed hemoglobin 10.8g/dL, TLC 16.6×103/mL, platelet 360×103/mL, blood sugar 299g/dL, blood urea 28g/dL, S creatinine 0.9g/dL, Na 139 mEq/L,K 3.3mEq/L, pH 7.38, PaCO2 32 mmHg, PaO2 96 mmHg, and Bicarbonate 19 mEq/L. Urine showed sugar 4+ and moderate ketone bodies. In view of dehydration, hyperglycemia, glycosuria, ketonuria, low bicarbonate levels, DKA treatment protocol was started with IV fluids and insulin infusion. The level of consiousness deteriorated by 12 hours and Glasgow Coma Scale was 12. He developed fasiculations and jerky movement of limbs. His respiration was 28/min and shallow, heart rate 64/min, BP 110/70 mm of Hg, oxygen saturation 96%. His pupils were 2mm in size and were reactive. CT scan head was normal. Due to fasiculations and shallow respiration, organophosphorus intoxication was suspected and plasma cholinesterase was done; it was 550 U/L (Normal=2710-11510 U/L). The diagnosis was revised to organophosphorus intoxication and child was managed with atropine and pralidoxime. He  responded well and was discharged after 6 days. Retrospectively, boy gave history of ingestion of 4 tomatoes in the field without washing 6 hours prior to admission.

The most common route of exposure to organophosphorus compounds is ingestion of agricultural products [1]. Probably our patient had poisoning from eating tomatoes contaminated with pesticide. Organophosphorus poisoning was not suspected at presentation, as the child presented to us with muscarinic symptoms like vomiting and diarrhea. Low levels of plasma choline-sterase support the diagnosis of OP poisoning [2]. Although plasma acetyl cholinesterase estimation was sufficient to support the diagnosis of organophosphorus poisoning in our case, we were unable to do estimation of RBCs ACE and urinary para-nitrophenol for technical reasons. Hyperglycemia is a known adverse effect of organophosphorus exposure and has been confirmed in animal studies [1,3-5]. The glucose metabolism is affected by several mechanisms, including oxidative stress, inhibition of paroxanase, stimulation of adrenal glands and release of catecholamines, and effect on metabolism of liver tryptophan [4]. In an earlier study glycosuria was observed in 69% of cases with OP poisoning. Organophasphorus intoxication can mimic DKA and its diagnosis may be delayed. Whenever there is discrepancy between clinical features and biochemical features in a suspected, DKA child, we should emphasize the need to look for an alternate diagnosis.


1. Levy-Khademi F, Tenenbaum AN, Wexler ID, Amitai Y. Unintentional organophosphate intoxication in children. Pediatr Emerg Care. 2007;23:716-8.

2. El-Naggar Ael-R, Abdalla MS, El-Sebaey AS, Badawy SM. Clinical findings and cholinesterase levels in children of organophosphates and carbamates poisoning.Eur J Pediatr. 2009;168:951-6.

3. Akyildiz BN, Kondolot M,  Kurtoðlu S, Akin L. Organophosphate intoxication presenting as diabetic ketoacidosis. Annals Trop Pediatr. 2009;29:155-9.

4. Rahimi R, Abdollahi M. A review on the mechanisms involved in hyperglycemia induced by organophosphorus pesticides.Pesticide Biochemistry Physiology. 2007; 88:115-21.

5. Shobha TR, Prakash O. Glycosuria in organophosphate and carbamate poisoning. J Assoc Physicians India. 2000;48:1197-9.

JDepartment of Pediatrics
JSS Medical College, JSS University
Mysore, Karnataka, India

Comment from

Why it can take years to see health problems
from eating pesticides in food

While pesticides are in nearly all non-organic foods you eat everyday, you may not personally notice the effects of the pesticides for decades. This is actually similar to why it takes decades of smoking to observe health problems as well. It is important to understand a few key points on how damage is not immediately noticed. For example, in type-1 diabetes, about 80% of the beta-cells in the pancreas must cease to function before diabetes symptoms appear. The human liver must sustain 70% damage before problems appear in routine blood tests. When this 70% threshold is reached, toxic chemicals stay in the body longer, thereby having more time to cause damage to other parts of the body - including the immune system.


From Wikipedia

β-hexachlorocyclohexane (β-HCH) is an organochloride which is one of the isomers of hexachlorocyclohexane (HCH).[1] It is a byproduct of the production of the insecticide lindane (γ-HCH). It is typically constitutes 5-14% of technical grade lindane,[2] though it has not been produced or used in the United States for more than 20 years, i.e. since 1985.[1] As of 2009, the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants classified (α-HCH) and (β-HCH) as Persistent organic pollutants (POPs), due to the chemical's ability to persist in the environment, bioaccumulative, biomagnifying, and long-range transport capacity.

This pesticide was widely used during the 1960s and 1970s, particularly on cotton plants. Although banned as a pesticide more than 30 years ago, traces of beta-HCH can still be found in water and soil. Animal studies show that organochlorine pesticides, including beta-HCH, are neurotoxic, cause oxidative stress, and damage the brain's dopaminergic system. Human studies show that exposure to beta-HCH is linked to Parkinson's and Alzheimer's disease.[3] Beta-HCH was present in elevated levels in some patients as recently as 2009. It was manufactured by exhausting chlorination of benzene and for this reason was called erroneously beta-BHC. This synnonym still persists.

In March 2005, the Italian National Monitoring System on Chemical Residuals in Food of Animal Origin found levels of the pesticide beta-hexachlorocyclohexane (ß-HCH) were 20 times higher than the legal limit of 0.003 mg/kg in bulk milk from a dairy farm in the Sacco River Valley. ß-HCH, a lindane isomer and possible human carcinogen, was subsequently found in milk from several neighboring farms. A study was therefore undertaken to evaluate the extent and risk factors for contamination. [4] [5]