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Reduce the Risk of Pesticides in Your Child’s Diet

Our children may be exposed to pesticides from residues found in their food. Below are ways you can reduce the risk of pesticide residues in your child’s diet.


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When Possible, Go Organic


You may choose to purchase foods and beverages that are certified as organically grown and processed. Organic food is produced according to certifiable guidelines, using renewable resources and conserving soil and water. For animal products, organic means antibiotics and growth hormones are restricted. For fruits, vegetables, and grains, restrictions pertain for most conventional pesticides, petroleum- or sewage-sludge-based fertilizers, bioengineering, and ionizing radiation.


Before a product can be labeled organic, a government-approved certifier inspects the farm where the food is grown to make sure the farmer is following all the rules necessary to meet USDA organic standards. Companies that handle or process organic food must be certified as well.


Today, many groceries carry organic food, but you can also grow your own chemical-free produce in your backyard. When you grow your own, you have more control over your food. This can be a great family activity.

Lower Pesticide Risk in Foods
  • Choose a variety of foods. This will give your family a better mix of nutrients and reduce the likelihood of exposure to a single pesticide.
  • Trim the fat from meat and poultry. Pesticides tend to accumulate in the fatty tissues of animals.
  • Remove the skin from chicken and fish. 
  • Discard the fat in broths and pan drippings. 
  • Wash produce under clean running water.
  • Peel skin or outer leaves. 
  • Buy produce in season. Not only is it less expensive, but it is also less likely to have been treated with fungicides and other preservatives. 
  • Buy from local growers. In this way you avoid buying food shipped over long distances or stored over long periods of time, and there is accountability for the manner in which it was produced. It also provides tremendous support to the local farmers. Moreover, it can often mean lower prices, too. I think local produce is fresher and better tasting than anything in the grocery store. To help find family farms, farmers markets, and other sources of sustainable produce grown in your area, go to

Buying organic can be more expensive, so you may have to make hard choices. The produce most important to buy as organic produce are the fruits and veggies that, if not grown organically, have the highest pesticide residues.


Between 2000 and 2007, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) analyzed the results of nearly 87,000 tests for residues on produce collected by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Nearly all the tested produce had been rinsed or peeled. According to EWG, a person eating the 12 most contaminated fruits and vegetables a day will be exposed to about 10 pesticides per day, on average. Eating the 15 least contaminated will cause exposure to fewer than 2 pesticides per day. To help consumers make healthy choices, EWG created a guide listing the most and least contaminated fruits and vegetables. The “dirty dozen,” in order of contamination (the first is most contaminated): peaches, apples, bell peppers, celery, nectarines, strawberries, cherries, kale, lettuce, grapes (imported), carrots, and pears. The “clean fifteen," in order (the first being least contaminated): onions, avocados, sweet corn, pineapples, mangoes, asparagus, sweet peas, kiwi, cabbage, eggplant, papaya, watermelon, broccoli, tomatoes, and sweet potatoes. For more information, go to

Source: The Safe Baby: A Do-It-Yourself Guide to Home Safety and Healthy Living (Expanded and Revised) by Debra Holtzman. Used by permission.


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Reduce the Risk of Pesticides in Your Child’s Diet:  Created on March 16th, 2009.  Last Modified on March 11th, 2014


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Other Articles by Debra Smiley Holtzman

About Debra Smiley Holtzman

Debra Smiley Holtzman

Debra Holtzman is an internationally-known safety and health expert, green living specialist and best-selling author. She holds a B.A. in communications from the State University of New York at Albany, an M.A. in occupational health and safety from New York University and a J.D. from St. John’s University School of Law. In addition to practicing law, Debra has worked as a safety and health consultant and has inspected numerous plants and factories for hazardous working conditions. Debra's Web site is

Her books, The Panic-Proof Parent: Creating a Safe Lifestyle for Your Family (McGraw-Hill, 2000), The Safe Baby: A Do-It-Yourself Guide to Home Safety (Sentient Publications, 2005) and The Safe Baby: A Do-It-Yourself Guide to Home Safety and Healthy Living (Sentient Publications, June, 2009) have received positive reviews and endorsements by leading parenting authorities and safety and health organizations. The Safe Baby won the National Parenting Publications’ Gold Award, one of the country’s most authoritative consumer-awards recognizing the best in children's and parenting resources.

Debra has been a guest on hundreds of radio and television shows, including the Today Show, Weekend Today, CNBC, MSNBC, and Washington Post Radio. She served as the safety expert on Discovery Health Channel’s weekly TV series, Make Room for Baby. She has been quoted in Newsweek, Parenting, Child, Fit Pregnancy, USA Weekend Magazine, and was chosen an "Everyday Hero" by Reader’s Digest, and was named a "Woman Making a Difference" by Family Circle magazine.



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