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The California University study, result of which were published in the journal Environmental Health, set out to investigate how toxicity levels in certain foods effects children’s health over time.

Head researcher Professor Irva Hertz-Picciotto, said “Contaminants get into our food in a variety of ways. They can be chemicals that have nothing to do with the food or byproducts from processing. We wanted to understand the dietary pathway pesticides, metals and other toxins take to get into the body.”

The small study assessed 364 young children, all under seven years old. Scientists found that pesticide exposure was high in tomatoes, peaches, apples, peppers, grapes, lettuce, broccoli, strawberries, spinach, dairy, pears, green beans and celery. Lead author of the study, Dr Rainbow Vogt, said: “We focused on children because early exposure can have long-term effects on disease outcomes.”

Previous research has only focused on the effects of individual contaminants, however this study aimed to “understand the cumulative risk,” Dr Vogt said, adding that the results highlight a need to prevent exposure to multiple toxins in young children to lower their cancer risk.

The study also outlined how families may lower their exposure to pesticides, such as introducing organic produce to their diet and varying the foods they eat . Prof Hertz-Picciotto, said “Varying our diet and our children’s diet could help reduce exposure. Because different foods are treated differently at the source, dietary variation can help protect us from accumulating too much of any one toxin.”

However, a cancer research expert in the UK, Eleanor Barrie, commented on the study saying, “'It’s really important to remember that the levels of pesticides found in fruit and vegetables are usually very low, and there is no evidence that eating these small amounts of pesticides increases the risk of cancer. “In fact, eating lots of fruit and vegetables actually reduces the risk of some types of cancer, so it’s a good idea to get your five-a-day.”

Certain pesticides can be removed from fruits and vegetables through light washing prior to eating.

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