THE BLOG
06/22/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

This Earth Day, Reduce Your Body's Toxic Load by Consuming Fewer Pesticides

Have you ever wondered what happens to all the pesticides that are sprayed to kill bugs? Do they just disappear magically? David Pimentel from Cornell University had that thought, so he studied what happened to pesticides and published his results in 1995.

He revealed that less than 0.1 percent of all pesticides that are applied actually make it to the target pest. This is a terrible accuracy rating. Can you imagine what would happen if Derek Jeter only hit less than 0.1 percent of his pitches? What makes it worse is knowing that over 1.2 BILLION pounds of pesticides are applied in the United States every year. This means that 1.19 billions pounds of those pesticides go to someplace other than the nasty bugs. So, where oh where do they go? For the answer you need to leave your computer for a moment and do two things. First, go look in a mirror, then go look into your refrigerator and pantry, look at pictures of all of your family members and then look outside. So, why are you buying products that spray 1.19 billion pounds of pesticides per year on the planet and persons that you love?

All of the different classes of pesticides kill the bugs by poisoning their nervous systems. So, guess what they attack when they get to you? Yep, the brain. And here are the common symptoms that these pesticides cause in humans who are exposed daily to low doses: fatigue, depression, headache, inability to think clearly and memory loss top the list. The interesting thing is that probably everyone you know is complaining of several of those things. Most of us think it is just a part of getting older, or having a stressful lifestyle or relationship. But it may also be due to our toxic load.

Numerous studies have looked to see if we carry pesticides and other toxic environmental chemicals in our bodies. The answer in all of the studies always turns out to be: yes, we do. Over 10 years ago the Environmental Working Group did a study on nine people that looked for the presence of 210 environmental toxins in each person. They found 167 of those 210 compounds in these people with an average level of 91 toxic compounds per person. One of the participants in this study was the journalist Bill Moyers. Mr. Moyers had a total of 84 toxic compounds present (not his total load of toxins, just of the 210 compounds that were tested for) which included two organophosphate pesticides (the class that is currently used) and three chlorinated pesticides (all of which have been banned for use since the 1970s and 1980s).

The three chlorinated pesticides that Mr. Moyers had (and that you may have in you) tend to just sit in your body and not leave. In fact they keep building up inside of you. This is mainly because they are fat-soluble and your body treats them just the way it treats all fat-like substances. It keeps them from leaving and typically puts them into storage, because your body is designed to KEEP fats inside the body and to not let them out. However, in my book Clean, Green and Lean I do cover natural ways to clear them from the body).

The organophosphate pesticides that were found means that he was currently exposed, since they do not build up in the body. Some wonderful studies by Dr. Richard Fenske and his associates at the University of Washington, have shown that the majority of our regular daily exposure to this common class of pesticides comes from our diet. They did a study on preschool aged children in Seattle and found that all but one of the children had pesticides in their urine. Since this class of pesticides began their career as nerve gas agents after World War one, they may not be exactly what you want your child (or yourself) to be exposed to.

Well, the researchers were very interested in this one child and found that this child's parents fed them only organic food. So, they designed another study that again looked at two different groups of preschool-aged children. They recruited families who either fed their children diets that were mostly organic or mostly conventional foods. They found that the amount of pesticides in the children was directly related to their diet. The diets that kept the pesticides out of the children ate only organic varieties of the most toxic fruits and vegetables as listed at www.foodnews.org.

Unfortunately, these are some of the most common foods that we eat: peaches, apples, bell peppers, celery, nectarines, strawberries, cherries, kale, lettuce, imported grapes, carrots and pears. Darn, why didn't Brussels Sprouts make that list! While some people complain about the supposed extra cost of buying organic, when it comes to these 12 foods, the extra price is well worth it. You can also get information about toxin presence on your foods by going to www.whatsonmyfood.org.

But, do these small daily amounts of pesticides (that escaped the pest but found you) have any adverse health effect on you? Well, in my patient population they certainly have, but let me just tell you the classic symptoms found in people who have been exposed to organophosphate pesticides. In greenhouse workers, the most commonly found symptoms were: depression, headaches, fatigue, and brain fog (reduced cognitive ability and speed). Other studies have shown that persons exposed to these organophosphate pesticides are more likely to develop allergies and autoimmunity (lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, etc.). Some cases of Parkinsonism, certain bone marrow cancers, and increased rates of childhood brain tumors have also been linked to the regular use of these pesticides.

So, to sum up:

  • The pesticides are all around us (and are in us)
  • We get most of them from consuming commercial varieties of 12 different fruits and vegetables and are therefore easy to avoid.
  • Their presence may contribute to the most common health complaints (fatigue, allergies, depression, headache and brainfog).
  • If you start to eat organic versions of these twelve foods, then less of the commercial foods will be grown; that means that less poundage of the pesticides will be sprayed. This also means that less will be coming back to you.

Sounds like a good deal all around.

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