High Pesticide Residues Found on Fruits and Vegetables

Pesticide residues on some fruits and vegetables can exceed safe limits for children, according to a study.

Over 27,000 food samples were tested, and most were found to be within the established U.S. legal limits for pesticides on those foods. However, legal limits do not define safety, and residues of some chemicals on some foods would frequently expose a young child to a dose greater than the government's official estimate of the 'safe' daily intake of those pesticides.

The foods found to have the highest levels of pesticide residues were domestic and imported peaches, grapes, apples, pears and spinach; U.S.-grown green beans; and U.S.-grown winter squash, both fresh and frozen.

Of these, peaches and frozen winter squash had the highest residue quantities, about 10-fold higher than the other "high scores" according to the study. Foods with the lowest levels of pesticide residues were frozen/canned corn, milk, U.S. orange juice, U.S. broccoli, bananas and canned peaches.

Slightly higher, but still within legal limits, were frozen/canned sweet peas, U.S. and imported apple juice, Mexican frozen winter squash, Canadian tomatoes, Brazilian orange juice and U.S. wheat.

U.S.-grown foods were just as likely to contain harmful pesticide residues as foods from other countries. In fact, 11 of the 12 highest residue scores were found on U.S. grown foods, according to the study.

An apple grown in the United States was found to typically contain residues of four pesticides, and one sample of spinach was found to have residues of 14 different pesticides. In general though, the analysts noted that just a handful of chemicals accounted for most of the toxicity loading in crops.

In fact one chemical, methyl parathion, was found to account "for more than 90 percent of the total toxicity load."

In 1996, the Food Quality Protection Act was passed, which requires low pesticide levels to protect children. However this law was met with industry resistance and has not been fully implemented, according to the study.

There are ways for parents to give their children fruits and vegetables without exposing them to unhealthy pesticide residues.

Washing and peeling peaches, pears and apples can reduce the amount of pesticides that usually show up on these fruits, because pesticides tend to concentrate just on or under the skin. Unfortunately, washing and peeling won't get rid of residues on squash and potatoes.

In those cases, the pesticides permeate the entire vegetable and you can't wash them off. Also you can't peel spinach or green beans. In these cases, it may be best to consider buying organically grown foods.

Dr. Mercola's Comment:

This study provides a thorough analysis of the state of pesticides on the vegetables in our food supply. This should be a strong encouragement to either purchase organic vegetables or grow your own.

If your personal circumstances prevent you from doing either of these, there are several products on the market that will help remove the pesticides from the OUTSIDE of the vegetables and fruits. Nothing removes them from the inside of foods like winter squash.

ShakLee makes a product called Basic H, which seems to work quite nicely for this purpose and is relatively cost-effective.

I was surprised to find that one of my favorite vegetables, winter squash, had so many pesticides. If you have not tried spaghetti squash as an alternative to pasta in soup, I would encourage you to do so.

Next week, I start to germinate some of the 60 different varieties of vegetables that I have purchased to plant this year. There is still plenty of time to purchase your seeds.

And before you know it spring will be here and the warm weather will be inviting the gardeners back outside. This year I plan on installing two-foot high cold frames on top of some of my 3 by 6 foot raised vegetable beds.

The walls will be composed of greenhouse material so I will have "mini-greenhouses." This will allow me to extend the growing season by about three to four months.

EPA Pesticides Brochure Gets Criticized

A recently released consumer brochure from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regarding the use of pesticides on food, and suggestions on how to reduce exposure to pesticides has received sharp criticism from a consumers group. The brochure was designed to inform the public about the risks and benefits of pesticide use.

It provides general information on the use of pesticides, the EPA's duties regarding review of old and new pesticides, and recommendations for washing fruits and vegetables.

However, the brochure has been criticized for not providing basic information about pesticides for consumers.

Instead of telling consumers that pesticides are toxic poisons, that they are found on many foods, and that some contain multiple pesticides, this brochure fails to provide consumers with even the most basic understanding of what pesticides are and what risks they pose.

The brochure is also badly misleading because it suggests that the EPA is protecting consumers, particularly infants and children, from the harmful effects of pesticides.

According to the consumers group, the EPA removed recommendations from the brochure's final draft that suggested consumers buy organic food, as well as references to specific health hazards of pesticides, due to pressure from the chemical and food industries.

The final version of the brochure did not include earlier warnings of the health effects of some pesticides, such as birth defects and nerve damage, according to the EPA.

Dr. Mercola's Comment:

It seems like the EPA will be the last one to admit that pesticides pose a health risk. However, I assure you that they do pose a risk and should be avoided as much as practically possible.

One consumer group recently set up its own Web site that allows parents to fill a grocery cart with typical items that a preschooler might eat during a day and then calculate the likely amount of pesticide residue consumed. The address is www.foodnews.org.

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