WHY AVOID PESTICIDES?
It’s no secret that pesticides are toxic. They’ve been linked to many health problems, including neurological and gastrointestinal problems, as well as problems in the endocrine and hormonal systems. After all, these chemicals are designed to kill, but guess what? The way they’re designed to work isn’t against any one species, so they often kill or harm organisms other than pests; including humans.
Aside from the fact that pesticides are harmful to the environment, long-term low-level exposure to pesticide residues in food as well as contact with pesticide residues in the air, water, soil, sediment, food materials, plants and animals, can lead to pesticide poisoning. Pesticide poisoning occurs when chemicals intended to control a pest affect non-target organisms such as humans, wildlife, or bees.
The World Health Organization reports that this long-term exposure to pesticides can “increase the risk of developmental and reproductive disorders, immune-system disruption, endocrine disruption, impaired nervous-system function, and development of certain cancers. Children are at higher risk from exposure than are adults.” In fact, any young and developing organism is particularly vulnerable to the harmful effects of pesticides, even with very low levels of exposure.
These symptoms are often very subtle and may not be recognized by the medical community as a clinical effect.
Toxipedia reports that “Pesticide exposure can cause a range of neurological health effects such as memory loss, loss of coordination, reduced speed of response to stimuli, reduced visual ability, altered or uncontrollable mood and general behavior, and reduced motor skills. These symptoms are often very subtle and may not be recognized by the medical community as a clinical effect. Other possible health effects include asthma, allergies, and hypersensitivity, and pesticide exposure is also linked with cancer, hormone disruption, and problems with reproduction and fetal development”.
How many neurologists, eye doctors, or psychologists ask their patients if they eat conventional or organic foods? How many doctors consider this as a root cause? How many doctors advise their patients to remove pesticide-ridden food from their diet tosee if there is any improvement?
WHAT CAN WE DO?
It is better to eat fruits and vegetables, even with pesticide residue, than to not eat vegetables and fruit at all. While we may not be able to fully eliminate the pesticides in our food, there are many steps we can take to reduce our exposure. Use the following tips and techniques to limit your exposure to pesticides:
Clean Fifteen/Dirty Dozen
Each year Environmental Working Group publishes two lists to aid in the selection of produce. The ‘Dirty Dozen’ list tells which foods are most contaminated with pesticides. The ‘Clean Fifteen’ list shares the opposite; which foods are least contaminated. Each year the lists change. Search for these titles followed by the current year for the most current list, or, follow this link.
Wash Your Produce
Wash your produce thoroughly, even your organic produce, with any of these pesticide rinse recipes. Experts recommend rinsing in running water as opposed to dunking in a tub of water. Use a scrubber for produce with firmer skin, like carrots, potatoes and squash. If possible, dry your produce with a clean cloth or paper towel.
Soak your vegetables in a solution of 10% white vinegar* to 90% water (i.e.: one cup vinegar to nine cups water) and let it soak briefly, then swish it around and rinse well. This is not recommended for fragile fruits like raspberries; mine actually fell apart!
*Proper vinegars should have on the label that they are made from distilled grain alcohol or other similar language indicating natural products from distilling. Avoid 20% vinegar.
In India, studies show that a solution of Tamarind (at least 20mg) and Vinegar were effective in removing the pesticide residue, up to 95%. The study said the vegetables should be dipped in the tamarind-vinegar water for 15 minutes.
Mix one teaspoon of sea salt per one cup of water, let produce soak briefly, then swish it around and rinse well.
Liquid dish soap and bleach are not recommend for washing your fruits and vegetables. These chemicals can get trapped in the pores of produce, becoming difficult to rinse off, there-by adding residues to your produce.
NOTE: Don’t believe your food has pesticide residue? Take this test and see for yourself:
1. Buy one large bunch of organic grapes and one large bunch of conventional grapes.
2. Place each bunch in a large bowl or pan.
3. Squirt dishwashing detergent in each bowl/pan and swish it around, mixing thoroughly for one minute.
4. Carefully watch the water for evidence of pesticide residue.
Grow Your Own Food
The most sure-fire way to know for certain what’s in your food, is to grow your own.
Buy From Your Local Farmer’s Market
If growing your own food is not an option, consider buying from your local Farmer’s Market. Local growers often use less pesticides and are more likely to grow organically. Locally grown food is healthier. In fact, many believe that eating locally grown non-organic is healthier than eating organic that’s been shipped in from another location, as long as it’s been cleaned properly.
Contrary to popular belief, organic does not mean ‘pesticide free’. However, pesticides used in organic produce are derived from natural sources, as opposed to being manufactured synthetically. Also, most organic farmers employ techniques such as insect traps, disease-resistant crop selection, predator insects and beneficial microorganisms.
Peel Your Food & Discard Outer Layers
Discard the outer layer of leafy greens and, if you can not grow your own or buy organic, you can always peel the food to strip the outer layer that is believed to holds a higher concentration of the pesticide.
Ferment Your Food
Studies now show that the act of fermentation degrades the pesticide in the food. In one study, the insecticide degraded at a rapid pace until day three, and by day nine, the chemical had degraded completely. Researchers identified four strains of lactic acid bacteria that were responsible for this effect.
Trim the Fat
Pesticide residue will accumulate in the fats of fish, poultry and other meats. Trimming the fat will reduce your exposure to these chemicals.
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World Health Organization
National Pesticide Information Center