Estimating Pesticide Exposure from Dietary Intake and Organic Food Choices

For most Americans, diet is the primary source of OP pesticide exposure

While health-conscious individuals understand the benefits of eating fresh fruits and veggies, they may not be aware of the amount of pesticides they could be ingesting along with their vitamins and fibres…

Pesticide-Spraying image
Among individuals eating similar amounts of fruits and vegetables, those who reported eating organic produce had significantly lower OP pesticide exposures than those consuming conventionally grown produce. Image of a helicopter spraying pesticides on a corn field via Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.

2015 Study Abstract

Organophosphate pesticide (OP) exposure to the US population is dominated by dietary intake. The magnitude of exposure from diet depends partly upon personal decisions such as which foods to eat and whether to choose organic food. Most studies of OP exposure rely on urinary biomarkers, which are limited by short half-lives and often lack specificity to parent compounds. A reliable means of estimating long-term dietary exposure to individual OPs is needed to assess the potential relationship with adverse health effects.

We assessed long-term dietary exposure to 14 OPs among 4,466 participants in the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis, and examined the influence of organic produce consumption on this exposure.

Individual-level exposure was estimated by combining information on typical intake of specific food items with average OP residue levels on those items. In an analysis restricted to a subset of participants who reported rarely or never eating organic produce (“conventional consumers”), we assessed urinary dialkylphosphate (DAP) levels across tertiles of estimated exposure (n=480). In a second analysis, we compared DAP levels across subgroups with differing self-reported organic produce consumption habits (n=240).

Among conventional consumers, increasing tertile of estimated dietary OP exposure was associated with higher DAP concentrations (p<0.05). DAP concentrations were also significantly lower in groups reporting more frequent consumption of organic produce (p<0.02).

Long-term dietary exposure to OPs were estimated from dietary intake data, and estimates were consistent with DAP measurements. More frequent consumption of organic produce was associated with lower DAPs.

Sources and more information
  • Estimating Pesticide Exposure from Dietary Intake and Organic Food Choices: The Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA), Environ Health Perspect; DOI:10.1289/ehp.1408197, 5 February 2015. Full study PDF.
  • Study Helps Predict Pesticide Exposure in Diet,
    Boise State University, 5 February 2015.
  • The Environmental Working Group’s “Dirty Dozen”
    summary, list and shopper’s guide.

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