Many Americans recognize pesticides in produce as a problem, but should you really be worried? Well, it definitely pays to be aware, if nothing else. Pesticides are linked to all sorts of health problems, after all. Let me share 6 facts about pesticides that are sure to make you angry.
- Pesticides Have Completely Ruined Strawberries
Toxic pesticides like fumigants are all over our strawberries—even organic ones! These poisons are released into the soil to kill off diseases, weeds, and pests before they become a problem, but now you’re left with a toxic gas in the environment—and on the berries. Fumigants are also linked to cancer.  Is that really something you want in your body? And while the USDA is researching alternatives, no projects are looking at strawberries. 
- Pesticides Are Destroying Male Fertility
So if strawberries are treated with fumigants, it stands to reason other fruits and vegetables use pesticides as well. When it comes to pesticides, though, there’s no such thing as safe conventional produce, but avocado, sweet corn, and pineapple seem to have the lowest residue levels.  But residues could even be harming male fertility. A study suggested men who eat lots of produce could have sperm counts 50% lower than men who consume smaller amounts of vegetables and fruits, and that the men who at the most fruits containing pesticides experienced 32% more abnormally shaped sperm. 
3. Pesticides Are Polluting the Water Supply
In the Midwest, where farming can be big business, fertilizer runoff is polluting the water supply. Iowa’s largest water utility is even “threatening to sue three rural counties” under the Federal Clean Water Act because of drinking water contamination.  The main concern here is nitrates in the water, which could poison—even kill—infants. Pesticides are such a widespread problem that they’re even making their way into our oceans. Whale meat from Norway was imported to Japan; tests confirmed that it had twice the legal limit of the toxins. 
- Pesticides Are Ruining Good Wine
In some places, toxic pesticides have even made drinking to escape your problems impractical. Take some wines in France, for instance. A report found that some “300 French wines from the 2007 and 2008 vintages of the Rhône and the wider Aquitaine region,” 90 percent of those had pesticide contamination. 
- Pesticides Lead to Antibiotic Resistance
A recent study suggested glyphosate—the main ingredient in the weed killer Roundup—and two other common herbicides (2,4-D and dicamba) could be connected to antibiotic resistance.  After exposure to the toxins, bacteria reacted differently to common antibiotics like ampicillin, ciprofloxacin, and tetracycline. And with glyphosate also recently ruled “possibly carcinogenic to humans” by the World Health Organization (WHO), this latest study is just one more reason to stay away from herbicides. 
- Pesticides Linked to Autism
Clearly, glyphosate is bad news, but Monsanto Company—its creator—doesn’t think so: it even wants a retraction of that WHO report! But it’s not just cancer that could be a concern; one study suggested that because of glyphosate toxicity in our food supply, 1 in 2 children will have autism by the year 2025.  That’s a radical claim, yes, but also a potentially devastating one that can’t be ignored.
One Final Thought
We can’t even rely on the government to protect us. The EPA just says to not worry about pesticide exposure; the agency has even set “tolerance levels” for the consumer—how reassuring. And, in many cases, the laws about pesticides aren’t even being enforced. In Europe, however, they’re trying to further regulate toxic pesticides, and the U.S. is having a fit. After all, if Europe were to strictly regulate the toxins, the U.S. could stand to lose out on a multi-billion dollar import business. Unfortunately, even when our health is on the line, our government can only see dollar signs.
What do you think about pesticides? Tell us your thoughts in the comments below.
- Weisenburger, D. Human health effects of agrichemical use. Human Pathology. 24 (6).
- United States Department of Agriculture. National Program 308: Methyl Bromide Alternatives. United States Department of Agriculture.
- Environmental Working Group. EWG’s 2015 Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce™. Environmental Working Group.
- Chiu, Y. H. et al. Fruit and vegetable intake and their pesticide residues in relation to semen quality among men from a fertility clinic. Human Reproduction.
- Rao, M. A closely watched fight brewing over nitrates in Iowa water. Star Tribune.
- The Japan Times. Norway whale meat dumped in Japan after pesticide finding. The Japan Times.
- Sciolino, E. In France, Pesticides Get in Way of Natural Wines. New York Times.
- Kurenbach, B. et al. Sublethal Exposure to Commercial Formulations of the Herbicides Dicamba, 2,4-Dichlorophenoxyacetic Acid, and Glyphosate Cause Changes in Antibiotic Susceptibility in Escherichia coli and Salmonella enterica serovar Typhimurium. mBio. 6 (2).
- International Agency for Research on Cancer. IARC Monographs Volume 112: evaluation of five organophosphate insecticides and herbicides. World Health Organization.
- Alliance for Natural Health. Half of All Children Will Be Autistic by 2025, Warns Senior Research Scientist at MIT. Alliance for Natural Health.