Why are organics becoming all the rage? And why are we seeing a rising interest in buying food grown locally rather than from the nearest grocery store chain? The fact is, people are afraid of pesticides, poisons left on our food. I knew that there had been many studies that show the negative effects that pesticides have on humans. I didn’t really know the seriousness of the issue, however, so I did a little research at the EPA and NPIC websites to get a little more information.
There are numerous reasons why pesticides are used on crops. The main reason being that weeds, insects, and fungi lower crop yield. Pesticides prevent them from destroying these crops so that we can have food on our tables. However, with the detrimental effects it appears these pesticides have on people, it is rather alarming that they are used so extensively and freely. Often times, studies will show potential health concerns but the EPA will still allow the item to be used on our produce and in our livestock feed.
For instance, take a look at these 2 commonly used pesticides.
Pesticide residues from this insecticide can be found on the fruit and vegetables we eat. It is used on crops to kill insects by causing the nervous system to stop working properly. It binds with enzymes in the insects body and prevents the nerve signal from stopping (1). This leads to the inability to breathe properly and the insect dies. Over exposure affects humans the same way it affects bugs!
Studies have shown that long term exposure causes decreased cholinesterase activity and nasal and larynx lesions, suppression of thyroid function, increased blood glucose levels and blood insulin concentration, reduction in the normal level of estrogen in blood plasma (2) and among other things, liver cancer (1) in animals.
In humans, long term exposure at low doses has been shown to cause respiratory, gastrointestinal, and neurological systems and decreased cholinesterase activity (2). When cholinesterase levels are low because of excessive inhibition, the nervous system can malfunction, which can lead to death (3).
Also, the EPA currently classifies malathion as having “suggestive evidence of carcinogenicity, but the evidence is not sufficient to assess human carcinogenic potential (4).”
This is a herbicide commonly used to kill weeds from overtaking crops.
In animal studies with exposure to 2,4-D for long periods of time in low doses the results were kidney toxicity, liver toxicity (5), damage to the eye, thyroid, kidney, adrenals, and the ovaries and testes and fetal abnormalities(6). There has also been “found some association between 2,4-D and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma” (5).” According to a study done by the National Cancer Institute, farmers who had been exposed to 2,4,-D had a 3 to 6 fold higher risk in obtaining non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (7).
This is only the start. The EPA estimates that approximately 5.1 billion pounds of pesticides are used each year in the United States (8). There are numerous different types of pesticides that are used, many showing adverse health problems when exposed. “At least fifty of these pesticides are classified as carcinogenic (9).”
The sad truth is that we are being exposed to them within the very foods that are supposed to be providing health and wellness to our bodies.
7. Sherrow, Victoria. Food Safety. New York: Chelsea House, 2008. 31.
9. Burke, Cindy. “How Pesticide Exposure Impacts Your Health.” To Buy or Not to Buy Organic: What You Need to Know to Choose the Healthiest, Safest, Most Earth-friendly Food. New York, NY: Marlowe &, 2007. 13.