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Pesticides in the Diets of Infants and Children
More complete information is needed on the effects of food processing on levels of pesticides—both the parent compound and its metabolites—in specific food-chemical combinations potentially present in the diets of infants and children.
Risk assessment. All exposures to pesticides—dietary and nondietary—need to be considered when evaluating the potential risks to infants and children. Nondietary environmental sources of exposure include air, dirt, indoor surfaces, lawns, and pets.
Estimates of total dietary exposure should be refined to consider intake of multiple pesticides with a common toxic effect. Converting residues for each pesticide with a common mechanism of action to toxicity equivalence factors for one of the compounds would provide one approach to estimating total residue levels in toxicologically equivalent units.
Consumption of pesticide residues in water is an important potential route of exposure. Risk assessment should include estimates of exposure to pesticides in drinking water and in water as a component of processed foods.
Given adequate data on food consumption and residues, the committee recommends the use of exposure distributions rather than single point data to characterize the likelihood of exposure to different concentrations of pesticide residues. The distribution of average daily exposure of individuals in the population of interest is most relevant for use in chronic toxicity risk assessment, and the distribution of individual daily intakes is recommended for evaluating acute toxicity. Ultimately, the collection of suitable data on the distribution of exposures to pesticides will permit an assessment of the proportion of the population that may be at risk.
Although the committee considers the use of exposure distributions to be more informative than point estimates of typical exposures, the data available to the committee did not always permit the distribution of exposures to be well characterized. Existing food consumption surveys generally involve relatively small numbers of infants and children, and food consumption data are collected for only a few days for each individual surveyed. Depending on the purpose for which they were originally collected, residue data may not reflect the actual distribution of pesticide residues in the food supply. Since residue data are not developed and reported in a consistent fashion, it is generally not possible to pool data sets derived from different surveys. Consequently, the committee recommends that guidelines be developed for consumption and residue data permitting characterization of distributions of dietary exposure to pesticides.
The committee identified important differences in susceptibility to the toxic effects of pesticides and exposure to pesticides in the diet with age.