Did you know that there are several hundred pesticides that are currently used in the production of food?
Over 260 studies already link pesticides to different cancers, including leukemia and lymphoma, as well as brain, bone, breast, prostate, colon, lung, thyroid, liver, and other cancers.
That’s a whole lot of chemicals.
Unfortunately, only a handful of these chemicals are tested for, and just how many of them are actually searched for depends on the type of food. For example, here in the UK, apples are often tested for 118 different chemicals, while grapes are only tested for 56.
Pesticides: Why Should We Care?
Now, if you’re the type of person who’s not afraid of a little germ, you may be wondering why you should care.
But you absolutely should care.
The effects from over-exposure to pesticides go far beyond what the common cold germ can do. Here are just some of the health problems that have been associated with pesticide-based chemicals.
Researchers at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City found a correlation between food allergies and pesticide levels in tap water.1 People with higher levels of the chemical dichlorophenol in their urine were also more likely to suffer from allergies to dairy, peanuts, eggs, and seafood. Researchers have hypothesised that the bacteria levels could be interfering with the body’s natural immune reactions, causing these allergies.
Scientists have been looking at the link between diabetes and pesticides for years. One of the more recent studies done by Robert Sargis, MD, PhD suggests that a fungicide used on farms directly creates insulin resistance.2
This is a biggie. Over 260 studies already link pesticides to different cancers, including leukemia and lymphoma, as well as brain, bone, breast, prostate, colon, lung, thyroid, liver, and other cancers.
According to research babies born to mothers who live within a mile of crops where pesticides 3 are commonly used are more likely to be born with autism. The reasoning for this? Many pesticides work by messing with the normal neurological function of the pests, and in turn, affects us as humans. Besides autism, pesticides have also been linked to other neurological disorders like Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease.
Not only in the baby-growing department, pesticides are also strongly linked to problems in the baby-making side of things.4 For example, atrazine, one of the most widely used herbicides, is linked to reproductive issues.
What’s The Point of Pesticides?
If pesticides present so many health problems, why even use them? Why not grow everything organically?
Well the main reason is cost. Pesticides are used to protect crops from weeds, diseases, and insects – all of which can cause devastating damage to crops. Using pesticides to help control these maladies can reduce produce waste and money loss.
The Top Foods for Pesticide Contamination Within the UK
Now that you know more about pesticides and how harmful they can be, let’s look at the top 10 dirty foods.
According to the Pesticide Action Network UK, the worst foods for residues are:5
- Green beans
Other fruits and vegetables that make the bad list include: pineapples, peaches, apricots, parsnips, lettuce, carrots, sweet potatoes, and peas in a pod. Other foods include; oily fish, cereal grains, dried fruit, and herbs.
If you are going to eat these foods, consider sticking to organic. If you have to buy non-organic, follow these instructions on how to wash them to get rid of the pesticides.
How to Wash Produce to Eliminate Pesticides
A quick wash is not enough! Washing does help remove most of the pesticide residue, if you do it properly. Use these tips to help you get rid of as much pesticide residue as possible.
1. Use Vinegar
Using a solution of 90% water and 10% distilled vinegar gets rid of more chemicals than water alone. Make your solution and let your produce soak for about 15-20 minutes. You may notice some dirt and gunky residue left after you remove the produce. Yuck! If you hate vinegar, you can use lemon juice instead. Or the Center for Science and Environment suggests a solution with 2% salt water.
2. Soak in a Bowl
When soaking your produce use a separate bowl, not your sink. Your sink is used for so many different things and thus could be harbouring its own set of germs.
3. Rinse Produce in Fresh Water
Make sure you give your produce a good, thorough rinse to get rid of the vinegar. If rinsed well, you should have no residual vinegar smell left. Just clean, healthy produce.
4. Remove the Skin
If washing your produce properly can remove most pesticides, peeling them can help to remove almost all of it. Some fruit and vegetable skins offer nutritional benefits, while others should never be eaten. As a guide:
- Thick skin should be removed. Examples: avocado, mango, cantaloupe, papaya, orange, pineapple, onions, corn
- Thin skin can be removed or eaten. Examples: apples, peaches, pears, eggplant, bell peppers, potatoes
- Ultra-thin skin isn’t removed and should be eaten. Examples: grapes, blueberries, tomatoes, snap peas
Pesticides have long been linked to health problems. Unfortunately, the use of pesticides in growing produce isn’t going to go away completely. Our options? Buying everything organic eliminates exposure to pesticides but can quickly add up in cost. If you are going to buy non-organic make sure that you wash your produce well to remove as much pesticide residue as possible.
Do you buy organic? Were you shocked to find that many of your favourite fruits and vegetables have been contaminated with pesticides? Why not share your experiences with us by leaving a comment using the comments box below.
- Jaslow, R. (2012). Pesticides in tap water linked to food allergy risk. In CBS News. Retrieved December 7, 2015 from http://www.cbsnews.com/news/pesticides-in-tap-water-linked-to-food-allergy-risk/
- Wood, M. (2105). The emerging links between diabetes and chemicals in the environment. In Science Life. Retrieved December 7, 2015 from http://sciencelife.uchospitals.edu/2015/11/10/the-emerging-links-between-diabetes-and-chemicals-in-the-environment/
- Shelton, J.F., Geraghty, E.M., Tancredi, D.J., Delwiche, L.D., Schmidt, R.J., Ritz, B., Hansen, R.L., Hertz-Picciotto, I. (2014). Neurodevelopmental Disorders and Prenatal Residential Proximity to Agricultural Pesticides: The CHARGE Study. In Environmental Health Perspectives. Retrieved from http://ehp.niehs.nih.gov/1307044/#tab2
- (Anonymous). (n.d.). Reproductive Health. In Pesticide Action Network. Retrieved December 7, 2015 from http://www.panna.org/human-health-harms/reproductive-health
- (Anonymous). (n.d.). Pesticide residues – hidden extras. In Pesticide Action Network UK. Retrieved December 7, 2015 from http://www.pan-uk.org/archive/Projects/Food/