Most of the fruits and vegetables that you eat are loaded with chemicals and pesticides. The farmers primarily use these during the cultivation to save the fruits and vegetables from pests and harmful insects.
According to a new report by the Economic Working Group (EWG), most citrus fruits in the market contain traces of dangerous fungicides. After testing at least 25 samples of non-organic fruits like oranges, mandarins, lemons, and grapefruits, the consumer advocacy group found a large amount of chemical residue that’s used to extend shelf life.
A Likely Human Carcinogen
The researchers found traces of Imazalil and thiabendazole, two hormone-disrupting fungicides known to humanity. Imazalil has been found to cause cancer, as well as harm both the endocrine and reproductive systems. The highest levels of this fungicide were detected on the clementines, grapefruit, and oranges. EWG toxicologist Alexis Temkin, Ph.D said:
“The average level of imazalil was about 20 times higher than what EWG scientists would recommend is a safe level for children to protect against increased cancer risk […] Imazalil is a fungicide that the EPA classifies as a likely human carcinogen. It can also change hormone levels in animal studies.”
EWG also tested two organic oranges and one grapefruit, but none showed any detectable signs of fungicides. According to Temkin, organic citrus fruits are the best choice to reduce your exposure to fungicides.
Maximum Allowed Limits
However, the residue pesticides and chemicals stay on the surface of the fruits & Vegetables. Rinsing with plain water doesn’t remove the harmful effects of pesticides on fruits and vegetables. At the end of the day, Temkin still recommends that you and your loved ones always eat lots of fruits and vegetables, whether conventional or organic. Simply opt for the latter if you have the choice. She said further:
“Additionally […] choosing domestically produced citrus may have lower levels of fungicides than imported samples.”
Chemicals such as pesticides, antibiotics, and hormones are used in plant and animal farming to boost production, reduce food waste, and ensure adequate food supply. Government agencies set the maximum allowed limits for agricultural and veterinary chemical residues present in foods (both domestic and imported foods). The levels of agricultural and chemical residues that are allowed in foods are considered safe and must represent the lowest level possible, complying with best industry practices.
The More You Consume, the Greater the Potential Risk
The use of pesticides can dramatically increase crop production and ensure a higher quality of produce. However, pesticides are also toxic chemicals designed to kill agricultural pests, and some can cause problems if humans consume them in large amounts. In animal farming, drugs such as antibiotics and hormones are used to boost growth and cut down on feed requirements. Residues of these drugs can also be hazardous to humans. The level of harm from exposure to pesticides, animal antibiotics, and hormones is dose-related, meaning the more you consume, the greater the potential risk.
Many people choose to buy organic produce to avoid pesticide residues. Organic farming grows to produce without the use of synthetic chemicals or pesticides. However, organic foods are not necessarily completely chemical-free because organic farmers may use natural pesticides on their crops.
If consumed in large amounts, even naturally occurring pesticides may cause humans problems if consumed in large amounts. Organic pesticide residues are also regulated to ensure they can be consumed safely.
- Reducing our exposure to pesticides and other chemicals in food
- To reduce your exposure to pesticides and other chemicals:
- Buy organic produce.
- Thoroughly wash all fruit and vegetables (even organic).
- Grow your own vegetables.
- Peel vegetables or remove the outer layer of leaves.
- Trim visible fat from meats – as many residues are fat-soluble.
- Cook meat and chicken thoroughly.
- Consume various foods (including meat alternatives like legumes, tofu, nuts, and eggs) to reduce your intake of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, hormones, and pesticides.
Accumulate Over Time in Body Tissues
In a study carried out by the CDC, children with leukemia tested positive for high organophosphate levels. Other studies indicate that there is a strong connection between lymphoma, leukemia, and pesticide exposure.
One of the most troubling details about human pesticide exposure is that they can accumulate over time in body tissues. This means that low-level exposure to these chemicals can build over time and become more and more toxic. Overall, however, there is a lot that we simply do not know about how pesticides interact with the human body.
What You Can Do
Feeling a little outraged and overwhelmed about pesticides is normal. After all, we like to eat fruits and vegetables to keep ourselves healthy, and ingesting harmful chemicals is not supposed to be part of the deal! Luckily, there is also a lot that we can do as consumers to protect ourselves and the environment from these toxic chemicals. You can also make your own “fruit wash” to help remove unwanted pesticide residues from your produce. Although this is not guaranteed to remove all of the harmful chemicals, it can help.
Purchasing organic fruits and vegetables is a great way to vote against pesticides. As the demand for pesticide-free produce increases, farms and food producers will be more willing to make the switch to natural modes of pest control.
Being a Conscious Consumer
Most people tend to avoid organics because of high prices, so if you cannot afford to buy organic produce 100 percent of the time, there is an easy guide to help you navigate which fruits and vegetables you should always buy organic due to high pesticide use.
Every year the Environmental Working Group comes out with their “Dirty Dozen” list of products that you should avoid unless it is organic (or home-grown!). They also put out a “Clean Fifteen” list of items that you can buy non-organic and not have to worry about high levels of pesticide exposure. Being a conscious consumer and voting for others’ health and the environment by choosing organic is a great way to bring about permanent change in the food world.