5 Facts About Pesticides in Foods

by on May 11, 2021 · 4 comments

in Health, San Diego

Are They a Cause for Concern?

By Miguel Leyva

When shopping for produce, you might know that it sometimes comes with potentially harmful pesticide levels. Even organic food, grown without chemical additions, suffers from pesticide overexposure.

What you eat today may have been sprayed with pesticides. Pesticides are used on crops to control insects, weeds, and other pests that could harm the growth of plants. In addition to agricultural use, some pesticides can be found in homes and gardens for insect control.

In this sense, an American nonprofit consumer organization dedicated to unbiased product testing analyzed five years of data collected by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA.) As a result, the organization determined that, in several cases, the number of pesticides found on fruits and vegetables exceeded safe levels. Specifically, they determined that approximately half of non-organic fruits and vegetables pose little risk, while about 20% of the produce (including green beans, peaches, and potatoes) received poor scores.

Farmers or those in charge of a sizable crop-growing operation use pesticides in almost all modern food production. Their role is to improve crop yields by controlling weeds, insects, and other threats that might occur. Thus, spraying fields with pesticides is an essential and commonplace aspect of farming — but those savings come at a cost to consumers.

Fortunately, learning more about pesticides in food can help you make sure your food is safe. Here are some of the essential facts about pesticides that everyone should know.

1. Pesticide Residues Aren’t Easy to Wash Off

Like most people, you may always be careful to wash all the produce you get from the grocery store. However, keep in mind that scrubbing the surface of your produce will remove most of the pesticide residues but never gets rid of all the deposits that might be there. The USDA’s Pesticide Data Program database is the ultimate go-to for information on chemical residues that might be found on your produce.

Unfortunately, you can never eliminate all pesticide residue because the skin on some produce is porous and can grab onto those substances firmly. In addition, applicators typically apply pesticides to the crop when the fruit or vegetable has just developed. So, naturally, the plant takes in and incorporates any pesticide sprayed on it. As a result of this process, an unsuspecting customer can be consuming produce with traces of some chemicals embedded into it. Unfortunately, you’re not going to scrub off those chemical residues.

2. Pesticides Accumulate Over Time

By the time we reach maturity, it’s safe to assume that we have all been exposed to pesticides. Whether we inhaled or absorbed them through our skin, these substances have found their way into our bodies. However, many pesticides out there are compounds that our bodies can handle–either by passing it through or breaking it down.

While some pesticides are more easily broken down, others stick around and build up in plants. They can even make their way inside our bodies. Given the severity of these pesticides, the EPA has classified some of the most persistent pesticides as persistent organic pollutants, so their use must be carefully monitored now.

3. Kids Are More at Risk Than We Realize

Most of us realize kids are younger and smaller than adults. As a result, their bodies are more vulnerable to contaminants of any kind, including herbicides. Their brains are still in the process of maturing, their organs and limbs will continue to grow, and as their bodies are smaller, the concentration of a toxin gets very high quickly in a child compared to an adult.

When exposed, the baby’s immature liver and kidneys cannot remove pesticides from the body as well as an adult’s liver and kidneys can. In addition, children often eat and drink more relative to their body weight than adults, leading to a higher dose of residue per pound of body weight.

4. Pesticide Exposure Can Cause Parkinson’s Disease

Continued exposure to small quantities of pesticides for a prolonged period – years to decades – can cause chronic illness. The symptoms of this disorder often go undetected at first and manifest later on. For example, the University of Colorado conducted a long-term study to look at statewide pesticide exposure related to occurrence rates of Parkinson’s disease and revealed a significant correlation.

Researchers tracked atrazine–a common pesticide used across the US–via groundwater records. Along with these records, it was found that Parkinson’s rates surged from 4 to 40%. From the current state of knowledge on exposure to pesticides, it also emerges that paraquat produces oxidative stress, contributing to the loss of dopamine-producing neurons that can lead to Parkinson’s.

5. Pesticides Are Particularly Dangerous for Farmers

While pesticides may be found on fruits that have not been washed, they pose less risk to us than they do for the farmers who grow them. They have to work with these chemicals in large quantities and at high concentrations. Given the health risks of being exposed to high concentrations of pesticides, the federal government requires people to be adequately certified before handling and applying pesticides–the “restricted use” ones, anyway, such as paraquat.

So it’s no surprise that men, who are more likely to be farmworkers exposed to paraquat and other pesticides, have a 40 percent greater risk for developing Parkinson’s Disease. The financial burden of this brain disorder is tremendous. Yet, the manufacturer with the most paraquat sales continues to insist that its products are safe and effective. Many farmers are now trying to find justice in state courts against the manufacturers by submitting paraquat claims where they allege the manufacturers have withheld critical safety information from agricultural workers.

The Bottom Line

The pesticides used in the farming process are a cause for concern. Pesticides can contain chemicals that accumulate over time and increase your risk of developing cancer or other illnesses. If you’re concerned about pesticide exposure, it’s worth considering organic produce as an alternative option — but remember that these fruits and vegetables do not always come free from contaminants either, so make sure to wash thoroughly before consuming.

Eating fresh produce can have a fantastic effect on your health, but it’s not always easy to limit the intake of pesticide residues. However, by definition, pesticides are toxic substances, so exposure to them can be dangerous. It’s also helpful to use common sense habits, such as rinsing produce before use and familiarizing yourself with the chemicals you might be exposed to. Added precautions are needed to ensure peace of mind, especially among the populations that may be most vulnerable to pesticide exposure — children, pregnant women, farmers.

Miguel Leyva coordinates the case management activities at Atraxia Law. In addition, Mr. Leyva is in charge of gathering and organizing relevant information about paraquat exposure and Parkinson’s disease, supporting agricultural workers and their family members injured by the use of this pesticide.

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Miguel Leyva May 12, 2021 at 7:07 am

As I mentioned in the article, there is developing evidence in the medical literature suggesting a link between exposures to certain pesticides, such as Paraquat and Parkinson’s disease. As a result, farmworkers, herbicide applicators, and other individuals who have been exposed to Paraquat on many occasions and have been diagnosed with Parkinson’s may be entitled to settlement benefits and financial compensation. If this is a subject of interest for you, you can find additional information on this dedicated page: Paraquat claim eligibility for injured consumers (https://www.atraxialaw.com/paraquat/)


J.Stone May 12, 2021 at 8:03 am

In case anyone is interested, we order our fruits and veggies from a place called Yasukochi Family Farms. They deliver a box of organic foods every Thursday to your door. The family has an interesting history. They were one of the families sent to the camps during the war.

Here’s a link. Check them out. Highly recommended. https://www.yasukochifamilyfarms.com


Frank Gormlie May 12, 2021 at 12:31 pm

Many folks in OB in the early 1970s were so concerned about crap in the food that they began the OB food co-op in a backyard; later it morphed of course into the OB People’s Food Co-op. See Eric DuVall’s history – https://obrag.org/2021/04/a-history-of-ob-peoples-food-store/


sealintheSelkirks May 12, 2021 at 2:55 pm

I’ve wondered what caused people to decide that their bodies aren’t like other critters bodies. You know, made up of the same atoms, cells, nerves, muscle tissue, etc etc all stuffed into a skin sack same as all the rest of the life on this planet? This disconnect with what is around us that I hear bothers me.

How could we have possibly forgotten this reality, lost our connection to the life & death cycles of this planetary existence? How did a belief come about that our bodies are somehow exempt from the deadly toxins that our species continually pours onto/into the rest of the living critters surrounding us on this globe since industrial poisons were invented? Is it ignorance, forgetfulness, or just plain apathy? Or an inability to change the paradigm we are trapped in?

Being as we live in a closed ecological system (which is what planets are excepting the occasional comet and asteroid that gets added in) that continually recycles everything…bluntly the dead parts end up becoming new parts in the living, our bodies are just 2nd hand atoms from all the other earthlings that lived here before us.

Of course we are going to get sick from the poisons we use to kill the other earthlings but there is so much dis-information being spread about by the media mouthpieces funded by the Big Ag/chemical mega-corporations. But profits are the most important objective in a market-based economy regardless of a few pitfalls or side effects. Aren’t they? Why else would these same corporations contribute such…ummm shall we say ‘healthy’ campaign contributions to the politicians that are supposed to regulate said corporations, hmmm?

And the other word for contributions starts with a ‘B’ don’t ya think?

Another sad and awful reality is that the majority of us can’t really afford the higher costs of so-called ‘organic’ labeled foods even already knowing of the dangers. I’ll admit it, I cannot afford to eat this way every meal or even most meals! And certainly not for the family that is barely getting by on poverty level income paychecks and never-ending increases in basic bills at best.

Even avoiding as much as we can of these deadly products in our food, we can’t dodge them obviously. Anybody live downwind of a golf course? Or city park? So the chemicals continue to build up in our tissue until something overloads the system. And it breaks down.

This article popped up today while I was reading this RAG article…the same topic with an expanded viewpoint & links to other studies just released:

Poisoning the Planet’s Web of Life




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