Can Pesticides Be Rinsed Off?

Can Pesticides Be Rinsed Off?
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Researchers measure the impact of eating organic on the levels of pesticides in our children.

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Produce can be contaminated by manure runoff, and conventional produce may be contaminated with pesticides. We’ve known for years that the 800 million pounds of pesticides used annually in the United States—herbicides, fungicides, insecticides—have clear-cut detrimental effects on farm workers and their families. That’s uncontroversial.

We can even do what are called hand-wipe studies to actually measure the pesticides in the hands of kids in California’s Central Valley. The planes come down and spray this fog. How much exposure urban and suburban and children are getting from food, however, has been unclear, until now. Twice daily, urine samples were taken from 3- to 11-year-olds for more than a year to see how much pesticide is flowing through our kids. These children were nowhere near farms, or fog-spraying planes. And to single out pesticides that were coming from the diet, as opposed to a lawn treatment or something, for two weeks of the year, the kids were put on organic diet. Guess which two weeks those were? So the two times during the year when they ate organic foods, there were undetectable, or nearly undetectable, pesticide residues in their urine, while their little bodies were basically swimming in it the rest of the year.

In my 2000 update, I told everyone about this disturbing study. Vegetarianism during pregnancy associated with having sons with a specific birth defect of the penis called hypospadias. They thought it might have something to do with the phytoestrogens in soy, but that didn’t make any sense since Japan, with the highest per capita soy consumption in the world, did not have high rates of the defect. I guessed that it might be low vitamin B12 levels leading to high homocysteine, which has been related to other birth defects, but we were all wrong.

Finally, though, the mystery seems to have been solved. The researchers reanalyzed the data for clues as to what could be found in the diets of vegetarians compared to meat eaters—other than more good things, like more fruits and vegetables. Unless, there is an endocrine-disrupting fungicide, called vinclozolin, that is sprayed on most of our conventional crops, which we now know causes hypospadias. So, researchers went back and split up the vegetarian moms into two groups: those eating organic produce, and those eating conventional produce. And while the vegetarian women eating conventional produce during pregnancy had indeed higher birth defects rates, there was not a single case in the organic group.

So it seems the hypospadias wasn’t due to vegetarian diets; it was that they were exposing their fetus to more pesticides. Can’t we just rinse our produce off? Well, it’s better than nothing, but this new study looked at three pesticides on apples. Levels start out at 100%. Rinsing seems to take off only about 15% of the pesticides. The only way to really cut down our dose is to peel the apple, eliminating about 85% of the pesticides—but also eliminating much of the nutrition.

So, eat organic foods whenever possible. Organic produce has more vitamins, more minerals, tastes better, stores better, and you get to not be complicit in poisoning farm workers and their families.

To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video. This is just an approximation of the audio contributed by veganmontreal.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Produce can be contaminated by manure runoff, and conventional produce may be contaminated with pesticides. We’ve known for years that the 800 million pounds of pesticides used annually in the United States—herbicides, fungicides, insecticides—have clear-cut detrimental effects on farm workers and their families. That’s uncontroversial.

We can even do what are called hand-wipe studies to actually measure the pesticides in the hands of kids in California’s Central Valley. The planes come down and spray this fog. How much exposure urban and suburban and children are getting from food, however, has been unclear, until now. Twice daily, urine samples were taken from 3- to 11-year-olds for more than a year to see how much pesticide is flowing through our kids. These children were nowhere near farms, or fog-spraying planes. And to single out pesticides that were coming from the diet, as opposed to a lawn treatment or something, for two weeks of the year, the kids were put on organic diet. Guess which two weeks those were? So the two times during the year when they ate organic foods, there were undetectable, or nearly undetectable, pesticide residues in their urine, while their little bodies were basically swimming in it the rest of the year.

In my 2000 update, I told everyone about this disturbing study. Vegetarianism during pregnancy associated with having sons with a specific birth defect of the penis called hypospadias. They thought it might have something to do with the phytoestrogens in soy, but that didn’t make any sense since Japan, with the highest per capita soy consumption in the world, did not have high rates of the defect. I guessed that it might be low vitamin B12 levels leading to high homocysteine, which has been related to other birth defects, but we were all wrong.

Finally, though, the mystery seems to have been solved. The researchers reanalyzed the data for clues as to what could be found in the diets of vegetarians compared to meat eaters—other than more good things, like more fruits and vegetables. Unless, there is an endocrine-disrupting fungicide, called vinclozolin, that is sprayed on most of our conventional crops, which we now know causes hypospadias. So, researchers went back and split up the vegetarian moms into two groups: those eating organic produce, and those eating conventional produce. And while the vegetarian women eating conventional produce during pregnancy had indeed higher birth defects rates, there was not a single case in the organic group.

So it seems the hypospadias wasn’t due to vegetarian diets; it was that they were exposing their fetus to more pesticides. Can’t we just rinse our produce off? Well, it’s better than nothing, but this new study looked at three pesticides on apples. Levels start out at 100%. Rinsing seems to take off only about 15% of the pesticides. The only way to really cut down our dose is to peel the apple, eliminating about 85% of the pesticides—but also eliminating much of the nutrition.

So, eat organic foods whenever possible. Organic produce has more vitamins, more minerals, tastes better, stores better, and you get to not be complicit in poisoning farm workers and their families.

To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video. This is just an approximation of the audio contributed by veganmontreal.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Doctor's Note

More on pesticides in our foods and their effects:

For further context, check out my associated blog posts: How Chemically Contaminated Are We? and Apple Peels Turn On Anticancer Genes.

If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my videos for free by clicking here.

 

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