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Pesticides in the Diets of Infants and Children
Tolerance concentrations are based primarily on the results of field trials conducted by pesticide manufacturers and are designed to reflect the highest residue concentrations likely under normal conditions of agricultural use. Their principal purpose is to ensure compliance with good agricultural practice. Tolerances are not based primarily on health considerations.
This report addresses the question of whether current regulatory approaches for controlling pesticide residues in foods adequately protect infants and children. The exposure of infants and children and their susceptibility to harm from ingesting pesticide residues may differ from that of adults. The current regulatory system does not, however, specifically consider infants and children. It does not examine the wide range of pesticide exposure patterns that appear to exist within the U.S. population. It looks only at the average exposure of the entire population. As a consequence, variations in dietary exposure to pesticides and health risks related to age and to such other factors as geographic region and ethnicity are not addressed in current regulatory practice.
Concern about the potential vulnerability of infants and children to dietary pesticides led to U.S. Congress in 1988 to request that the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) appoint a committee to study this issue through its National Research Council (NRC). In response, the NRC appointed a Committee on Pesticide Residues in the Diets of Infants and Children under the joint aegis of the Board on Agriculture and the Board on Environmental Studies and Toxicology.
The committee was charged with responsibility for examining scientific and policy issues faced by government agencies, particularly EPA, in regulating pesticide residues in foods consumed by infants and children. Specifically, the committee was asked to examine the adequacy of current risk assessment policies and methods; to assess information on the dietary intakes of infants and children; to evaluate data on pesticide residues in the food supply; to identify toxicological issues of greatest concern; and to develop relevant research priorities. Expertise represented on the committee included toxicology, epidemiology, biostatistics, food science and nutrition, analytical chemistry, child growth and development, and pediatrics.
The committee was not asked to consider toxicities resulting from exposures to microorganisms (bacteria and viruses) or from other naturally occurring potential toxins. It was not asked to weigh the benefits and risks to be derived from a plentiful and varied food supply against the potential risks resulting from pesticide exposure. It was not asked to assess the overall safety of the food supply.
In this report, the committee considered the development of children from the beginning of the last trimester of pregnancy (26 weeks) through