February 22, 2013
Pesticides and allergies?
As the seed catalogs arrive, many of us wish that we could grow more of our food. The American Academy of Pediatrics now warns us about the effect of pesticides on our kids. They have grown up with a “new normal” of pesticide-laden food and increased food allergies—up 18 percent in the U.S. between 1997 and 2007. Is there a connection?
One study reported that high levels of dichlorophenols, a chemical commonly found in pesticides used by farmers and chlorinated tap water, when found in the human body, are associated with food allergies.
Pesticide drift is the term used to describe the phenomenon by which almost 95 percent of pesticides wind up on or in something other than their intended target.
Pesticides are found in more than 90 percent of wells and half the groundwater in urban and agricultural areas. Hundreds of chemicals that target insects and diseases that can afflict crops remain after the crops are harvested, even after produce is washed at home. Department of Agriculture data show that the average American is exposed to 10 or more pesticides every day, via diet and drinking water. So what is the solution?
Organic fruits and veggies? Organically grown means no pesticides. Using tests conducted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Environmental Working Group ranked 53 foods by amount and frequency of pesticide contamination. Here are the top seven foods ranked from most to least contaminated when grown conventionally:
• Apples: Out of every 10, nine have traces of a carcinogenic fungicide; eight also have diphenylamine (DPA), linked to bladder tumors. Apples carry 40 other pesticides: carcinogens, hormone disruptors, neurotoxins, developmental toxins.
• Celery: The USDA counts 64 pesticides on celery to kill moths, caterpillars and beetles, some by overstimulating their muscles to contract.
• Strawberries: Of every two strawberries you enjoy, one probably contains the fungicide captan, a probable carcinogen. It is usually accompanied by fellow fungicide pyraclostrobin, a known skin and eye irritant.
• Peaches: They carry residues of 62 pesticides. Almost every other peach has fludioxonil, which targets the liver and kidneys. Some 30 percent of samples contain traces of iprodione, a possible carcinogen, and phosmet, which targets the nervous system of insects and humans, along with our reproductive system.
• Spinach: It harbors 48 pesticides. Close to every other leaf has permethrin and imidacloprid, which disrupt nerve signals.
• Nectarines: A clean-shaven variety of peach, the nectarine is a little cleaner pesticide-wise but contaminated with the same substances. The USDA counted 33 different residues. At the top of the list is formetanate, a neurotoxin found in every other nectarine you consume.
• Grapes: The USDA found traces of 34 pesticides on Chilean grapes. Of every 10 imported grapes, almost three have the fungicide cyprodinil, which can irritate eyes, nose and especially skin. One in 5 has the neurotoxin imidacloprid.
Seven conventionally grown foods that are most safe to eat (ranked from least to most contaminated) include those that you can peel: onions, sweet corn, pineapples, avocados, asparagus, sweet peas and mangoes