Are you exposed to pesticides? Not sure? Well, chemical residue in produce is everywhere. Are pesticides in foods harmful to your health? And if yes, what to do?
I believe in food as medicine, but I am appalled if ‘good’ food is harming me. And it makes an issue a double-trouble if there is no explicit disclosure. Well, what to do? Educate yourself!
Today we will focus on topics that you must(!) be aware:
- pros and cons of pesticides
- types of pesticides
- why are pesticides harmful
- pesticide residue in food
- how to avoid pesticides
So, if you want to know about your food safety and avoid being slowly ‘poisoned’ by pesticides, then learn facts. They do matter.
With this in mind, let’s dig in.
1. Pros and Cons of Pesticides: EPA and You
First, what is the definition of pesticides?
The term “-cide” comes from Latin and means “to kill.” According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), “pesticide” is a substance or mixture of substances with intent to prevent, destroy, repel or mitigate any pest.
On the positive side, pesticides help to control mosquitoes, ticks, rats, mice, and other harmful creatures. Besides, they help with weeds, insect infestation, and some diseases.
On the negative side, some pesticides pose a high risk to humans and the environment.
The next key point is that there are “minimum risk pesticides,” which supposedly have no or little risk. But is that so?
Also, EPA has exempted these pesticides from registration under federal FIFRA regulations–the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act. (1)
To add insult to injury, EPA doesn’t review products claiming their exemption status from pesticide regulation. Luckily, some states do.
Well, you might ask, “How do I know what kind of pesticides did my farmer use?”
In general, do you wonder about are pesticides in foods harmful? And even if farmers use minimum risk pesticides, what is the minimum risk?
As a person with a cancer history, one risk is too many! How about children and the elderly? Would you believe that pesticides level–no matter how low–, are not harmful to people with the weak immune system?
Also, how do you know that inactive ingredients become ‘active’ and dangerous in reaction with other chemicals?
Moreover, do the popular products contains the ‘legal’ amount of pesticides?
Well, so many questions and we haven’t even scratched the surface.
TAKEAWAY: Pesticides have one goal – to kill. And even though intended for harmful organisms, they are potentially dangerous to the environment and human health.
2. Types of Pesticides
Other than minimum risk pesticides, there are other types:
- organic and synthetic
- persistent organic pollutants
- biological and chemical
Organic vs. Synthetic Pesticides
Organic pesticides naturally occurred in plants as a protection mechanism. “Natural” here doesn’t mean non-toxic. Therefore, they can be dangerous to live species and humans.
In general, organic pesticides are allowed for crop and livestock unless expressly prohibited.
In contrast, synthetic pesticides are substances “designed” in labs to kill a certain organism. They are prohibited by The Department of Agriculture for crop and livestock unless specifically allowed. (2)
Synthetic pesticides supposedly have low toxicity. However, some of them are extremely harmful, for example, glyphosate or also known as a product called Roundup.
It represents billions of dollars of the revenues and widely used in food production. Also, it is a chemical to keep parks weed-free. So, think twice letting next time your child to play on a public lawn. (3)
Well, if those pesticides used on food, are you safe?
Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs)
POPs are called “persistent” because they are not biodegradable. As a result, even when banned, some can still spread toxicity and be harmful to the environment and human health.
For example, chlordine finished its existence in 1988 but continue dangerously affecting numerous regions around the world.
And if chlordine contaminates soil and fruits and veggies from your region, how would you answer the question, “Are pesticides in foods harmful?”
Biological vs. Chemical Pesticides
Biological pest control includes the use of fungi, bacteria, and other natural organism or substances. Overall, this method is harmless and doesn’t leave a dangerous residue.
Chemical pesticides, on the other hand, either organic or man-made, – are toxic and therefore the most dangerous.
Besides, there are other pesticides categories, for example, based on types of pests they target:
- insecticides – insects
- herbicides – plants
- rodenticides – rodents
- fungicides – fungi (4)
Finally, today on the market, there are plenty of illegal and counterfeit pesticides. (5)
So, what pesticides are you exposed to?
TAKEAWAY: Except for the biological, most pesticides can be toxic, including organic. Chemical pesticides among all are the most dangerous.
3. Health Effect of Pesticide Exposure
To answer the question, “Are pesticides in foods harmful?” – I will share with you my horror ‘strawberry’ story.
A few months ago, I bought strawberries in a reputable grocery store. After I washed and ate them, my entire body was in hell. Suddenly I became weak and hardly could work.
Somehow I went through the night but still end up in the hospital. Diagnosis?
As a result, I started digging and found out that bees and some birds populations around the world are dying from pesticides. Needless to say that it presents a significant problem for our entire ecosystem.
Besides, there is worldwide contamination of honey by neonicotinoids–pesticides applied globally. (6)
Well, if these chemicals cause such adverse effects on bee health, should you be concerned about your health?
In fact, the EU banned neonicotinoids because they are potentially dangerous to human health. But in the US, they are still in use. (7)
Below are some potential health concerns in connection with neonicotinoid pesticides:
- growth disorders
- birth defects
- problems with normal development
- issues with the nervous system in children
- brain damage
- learning and memory problems
Another critical point about pesticides. The World Health Organization named some of them as probably carcinogenic to humans. Example – herbicide glyphosate mentioned in the prior section. (8)
Next, another considerable risk of being exposed to pesticides is Parkinson disease and significant cognitive problems in the long term. (9)
And if we couple pesticides exposure with the potential heavy metals’ toxicity, it can create an awful tsunami of health problems.
So, are you next? And how will you answer a question, “Are pesticides in foods harmful?”
TAKEAWAY: Most chemical pesticides can be harmful to human health and cause significant damage from a birth defect to a Parkinson disease.
4. Harmful Pesticide Residue In Food
Now, how you feel to know that ‘healthy’ food potentially make you sick, tired, or overweight?
Pesticides in Honey
Let’s go back to honey contamination by pesticides. If 75% of all worldwide supply is affected, then can we assume that every three out of four jars have dangerous chemicals? Probably not but your odds to get a jar with chemicals are high.
Well, should you take a chance?
For this reason, where else you can find pesticide residue in food?
Pesticides in Tea
Who could’ve thought that there are pesticides residues at levels potentially harmful to you are on tea leaves! Surprised?
I was shocked to find out that tea is a highly sprayed plant.
As a result, some of the most popular tea brands contain multiple chemicals and pesticides. (10) On top of the list are Lipton, Tetley, and Twinings.
Another report showed that Teavana and Celestial Seasonings had the same problem.
Pesticides in Fruits and Veggies
Around the time when I got sick after eating strawberries, I stumbled on the list of most contaminated produce or so-called ‘Dirty Dozen.’ And strawberries were on the top of the list. No wonder!
It is also critical to point out that the use of pesticides is only a part of the problem. And even if you grow your fruits and veggies, you are still at risk. How?
If an urban runoff is a toxic soup containing different pesticides, then it can severely impact all surrounding plants. So, are your tomatoes pesticide-free?
TAKEAWAY: Pesticides are used heavily in food production. Harmful chemicals are in your tea, honey, fruits, vegetables, and other products. Buyer beware!
5. How To Avoid Pesticides in Food
Now, when we have answered the question, “Are pesticides in foods harmful,” what is the solution?
To reduce or even avoid harmful chemicals, you can take some protective measures.
Buy Organic Food
Organic farmers use approved organic pesticides. Mainly, you should consider organic for thin-skinned fruits like grapes, strawberries, peaches, and nectarines. Remember the Dirty Dozen?
However, you still should wash these items thoroughly to remove harmful bacteria.
Wash Produce With These Secret Ingredients
Organic is costly. Well, so does your health. But if you don’t buy organic, protect yourself by washing or better say soaking produce using a simple mixture.
Ingredients are water and raw cider vinegar or regular vinegar. Mix one cap of vinegar with filtered water and soak your fruits and veggies for 15-20 minutes.
Vinegar is a miracle worker. It kills bacteria and helps to remove pesticides on fruits and vegetables.
Viola! It is safe to eat now.
This trick, unfortunately, takes time. But I strongly encourage you to make it a part of your daily routine. And please don’t skip because it can cost you!
Also, click here to learn about “5 Ways to reduce toxic exposure.”
TAKEAWAY: Go organic to minimize or avoid pesticides in foods. But organic or non-organic, you should wash your produce thoroughly. Also, soak them in a mixture of filtered water and vinegar.
Conclusion: Pesticides Free Life
To summarize: potentially harmful pesticides are everywhere in your food – fruits, vegetables, tea, honey, and other produce. Therefore, eating ‘healthy’ sometimes might be not so healthy.
As a result, the consequences of these dangerous chemicals piling inside of you might be detrimental to your health in the long term.
Cognitive problems and Parkinson disease, nervous system dysfunction, cancer. Pick your poison.
Indeed, pesticides are poison. Remember what does “-cide” stand for? To kill!
Now, when we’ve answered the question, “Are pesticides in foods harmful to your health,” what is next?
Well, as my doctor would say, “The rest is your responsibility.”
Of course, we still should appreciate good food and have fun with cooking. But let’s be brave and take action against pesticides.
Let’s have a pesticides-free life!
I invite you to enlighten us with your thoughts. Leave them below.
Founder of Detox Generation
Disclosure: The views and opinions expressed on this site are solely those of the author. All content, including text, images, and other formats, is for information purposes only. The author is not a medical professional, dietitian or integrative treatment specialist. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health specialists with any questions you may have.