Poisoned - FamilyEducation

Poisoned

May 18,2010
Professor Mom
Aliki McElreath

Aliki is a writer and college English teacher. She lives in North Carolina with her husband, two children (ages seven and ten), a dog, a cat, a rabbit, and too many fish.

On my way home from work yesterday afternoon, I checked my e-mail one last time and found a link to this alarming story. Have you seen it? A new study now links ADHD in children to exposure to pesticides commonly found in fruits and vegetables. Studies like that make me want to cry. Studies like that often make me cry. Then they make me angry. Because we parents just can't seem to win. We work so hard to provide only the best for our kids; we take our folic acid in pregnancy, we eat right, we make our own baby food, we breastfeed, we practice attachment parenting, we research the right educational choices, we limit TV and refined flour and sugar and caffeine and then a study like that comes out and you feel like a failure. The questions and self-doubts creep in. Maybe feeding your kids too much fruit and too many vegetables was wrong, after all? Can you ever truly wash out pesticides in fruit, even if you've spent countless minutes of your life scrubbing produce under running water, soaking berries, and peeling apples? But what about those careless, too-busy times I let L. and T. munch on fresh fruit on the way home from the store, or I was too harried to properly soak the fruit? L. has always been super-sensitive to chemicals and medicine, is it possible his system is more vulnerable than T.'s? Is there a link between kids with AS and "weakened" neurological systems that might be more prone to being affected by pesticide residue? Is this an answer to why so many children with autism spectrum disorders also have ADHD? What's a parent to do? The Mama Guilt, it's everywhere. And the advice medical professional are giving out now? Buy organic fruits and vegetables. After I read the study I headed to the grocery store. I walked in the doors and instead of seeing bins of fresh fruits and vegetables, I saw poison everywhere: pesticide-covered strawberries and blueberries and those grapes! The grapes my kids eat by the handful all summer long! All covered in pesticide residue. Of course I have known for years about the dangers of pesticides but I can't say that for years I have scrubbed every last fruit and vegetable 100% clean. And while I do try and buy organic when we can, the bottom line is organic fruit is expensive--sometimes prohibitively so. And what about the parents who can't afford to buy organic? Ironically, the organic fruit section of the store was nearly empty--wiped clean. Maybe a lot of mamas had read the same study that day. Only one sad box of bruised organic strawberries remained. And the large sign announcing "Organic Produce!" in large letters applied only to one tiny section of the fruit bin. There were other pints of blackberries and blueberries in that section, but when I looked closely at the labels those were, in fact, not organic. But all around the fruit and produce section of the store were pints and pints of non-organic buy-one-get-one free berries for sale: blueberries and blackberries, and strawberries. And that made me mad. Either we all get behind our children's health: grocery stores and consumer marketing departments, and large commercial farms, and schools and everyone in-between so we can help everyone avoid the pesticides that could be harming our children, or we stop publishing studies that serve only to make parents feel more guilty and less in control about the decisions they made. Everyone should be able to afford pesticide-free food; everyone should have access to the best quality, safest, most nutritiously rich food possible for their families. I plan on writing a letter to area grocery stores asking that they post information on pesticide residue around the displays for fruits and vegetables that are most at risk. I'm hoping that they will keep the organic food sections well-stocked, and consider offering the same types of buy-one-get-one deals on organic food as they do on non-organic produce. Maybe if we all do the same, we can make some changes happen. Maybe. It's all about those small steps--sometimes the most important ones.
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