Tag Archives: pesticides in water

Fruits and Veggies to Eat and to Avoid

My posts have recently focused on pesticides and their effect on human physiology in a variety of ways.  See Solving Childhood Obesity – Part II – Chemical Exposures, Toxins causing ‘grievous harm,’ cancer panel says, or Baby Bottles and BPA – You need to know the facts… for just a few examples.

The pesticide problem in this country is obviously a major one that contributes to everything from obesity to cancer.  The problem?  Most of our exposure to these pesticides is through eating the most nutritious foods – fruits and vegetables.

The Environmental Working Group recently released the ‘Dirty Dozen’ of fruit and vegetables that contain the highest pesticide counts.  They also provided a list of fruits and vegetables that are less problematic when consumed.  I have reprinted the list below.

The ‘Dirty Dozen’ – Only Consume From Organic Sources

  1. Celery
  2. Peaches
  3. Strawberries
  4. Apples
  5. Domestic blueberries
  6. Nectarines
  7. Sweet bell peppers
  8. Spinach, kale and collard greens
  9. Cherries
  10. Potatoes
  11. Imported grapes
  12. Lettuce

You May Consume from Non-Organic Sources

  1. Onions
  2. Avocados
  3. Sweet corn
  4. Pineapples
  5. Mango
  6. Sweet peas
  7. Asparagus
  8. Kiwi fruit
  9. Cabbage
  10. Eggplant
  11. Cantaloupe
  12. Watermelon
  13. Grapefruit
  14. Sweet potatoes
  15. Sweet onions

I always recommend that my patients eat as much as possible from organic sources.  I am, however, a realist and know that it is almost impossible to find all of your food from organic sources.  Even I don’t eat everything organic.

In the first list you see that they are all ready to eat.  You could pick any one of those dirty dozen right off the tree or vine and pop it in your mouth and enjoy.  However, that means that the pesticides are also applied directly to the skin of the fruit or vegetable.  The skin of these fruits and vegetables are soft and the pesticides are absorbed directly into the flesh of the produce.  Washing does you no good.  In fact, the tests were conducted only on produce that had been washed with a USDA high-power pressure water system.  The Environmental Working group found that you could potentially reduced your pesticide exposure by 80% by avoiding the dirty dozen or only eating them from organic sources.

In the second list you see fruits and vegetables that are consumed only after the tough skin has been removed.  The Environmental Working Group found little to no pesticide in the flesh of this produce.  I still recommend that you eat these organically because of the other benefits of organically grown produce.

Conventional wisdom has been that as long as you wash your produce you protect yourself from the dangers of pesticide exposure.  It always seemed naive to me to assume that spraying pesticides on the outside of our produce had no effect on the inside of it.  Now we have proof that at least soft skinned produce absorbs these dangerous chemicals and transfers those neurotoxins to us.

There is no better way to get your vitamins, minerals and antioxidants then by consuming fresh produce.  However, make sure you eat as organically as possible to avoid unnecessary pesticide exposure.


Filed under Diet, Environmental Health, Public Health

Dangerous Pesticides Found In Tap Water. Find out how to protect yourself

A common herbicide has been found to contaminate the drinking water of millions of Americans.  Now a new study shows that this chemical, called atrazine, causes serious health issues in living organisms.  The issues that occurred were very frightening and were induced in levels that a human could ingest through contaminated drinking water.

The atrazine was found to “chemically castrate” male frogs and turned others into females.  Atrazine is a common weed killer used to control grasses in areas where more desirable crops are grown.  In a recent study, 10% of male frogs exposed actually changed sex and nearly all of the males had low testosterone and sperm count levels. Atrazine has been linked in human studies to low birth weight, premature development, birth defects and low sperm count.

Atrazine has been banned in Europe, but it is still the most widely used herbicide in the U.S. with 76 million pounds applied each year.  Atrazine is a known endocrine disruptor.  Endocrine disruptors are exogenous substances that act like hormones in the endocrine system and disrupt the physiologic function of endogenous hormones.

About 75% of stream water samples and 40% of groundwater samples contain atrazine, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. The Natural Resources Defense Council, an environmental advocacy group, detected atrazine in 90% of tap water samples from 139 water systems.

The company that makes atrazine denies that it is unsafe stating that its own studies show it has no sexual effect on frogs despite the fact that many studies show the opposite.  This is another instance of a major corporation trying to keeps its product on the market at all costs.  By most accounts this is the most widely used herbicide in the world so it’s a huge money maker for Syngenta, the main producer of atrazine.  You will be surprised to know Syngenta is actually just an arm of the pharmaceutical giants AstraZeneca and Novartis.  On their website they state that their name means “bringing people together.”  Seems like a funny name for a company that refuses to admit their products are potentially dangerous for entire populations of people.

Endocrine disruptors like atrazine are a major problem in the U.S.   Atrazine appears to act on animal physiology by mimicking the hormone estrogen.  That would explain how it could change male frogs to female frogs and would also explain the observations of low sperm counts seen in both frogs and humans exposed to atrazine.  Syngenta would have you believe this happens at high levels of exposure but it simply is not true.  Even exposure to low levels of these chemicals can be harmful.  Also take into account that atrazine is not the only endocrine disruptor in our environment.  They are found in plastic bottles, metal food cans, detergents, flame retardants, food, toys and cosmetics.

This chemical is obviously dangerous because Europe has banned its use, but Big Pharma has much too much power for that here in the United States.  Unfortunately, it will continue to be in our water supply until something very serious happens to a large group of people.  There are ways for you to protect yourself.  A simple filter on your faucet will filter out this chemical.  If you have small children or value your own health, it would be wise to consider a filtration system for your home.


Filed under Environmental Health, Public Health