By Brian Clark Howard
Worried about scary-sounding pesticides like malathion, permethrin, spinosad and diazinon that may be lurking in your fresh produce or mixing with the ingredients in your cupboard? Children, especially, are know to be more vulnerable to the effects of chemicals, and no studies assess the danger of children's long-term exposure to low levels of pesticides. What is known is that, of the 28 most widely used pesticides, more than 40 percent are classified by the EPA as likely, probable or possible carcinogens, according to a review by the Northwest Coalition for Alternatives to Pesticides.
Here are some tips that may help you reduce your family's exposure to pesticides:
- Scrub Thoroughly With conventional foods, you can't avoid pesticides that are absorbed through a plant's roots. However, much of the residue from sprayed chemicals is blocked by the plant''s skin. Therefore, vigorous washing can help remove the remnants.
- Try Washes A number of companies also offer non-toxic wash products, which can be sprayed on produce and rinsed, a process manufacturers claim removes more residue than water alone. The sprays also help remove fertilizers, dirt, fungi, waxes and germs from pickers. Brands include Veggie Wash and Wash 'dem Veggies from Vermont Soap Organics.
- To Peel or Not to Peel? Some experts have suggested choosing produce with thick, peelable skin, which can make it harder for pesticides to enter the primary flesh. However, be aware that Environmental Working Group tests have turned up residues even on peeled bananas and other fruits. Plus, the skins of apples, potatoes and other produce are often loaded with health-promoting antioxidants and other good nutrients, so deciding whether to peel or not can be tricky.
- Grow Your Own By sowing your own garden or containers, you can control exactly what goes on your food. Plus, you''ll be able to enjoy one of the world''s most popular hobbies, and have a chance for greater connection to nature.
- Buy Organic! As one would expect, tests have shown organic foods to have much lower levels of pesticide residues. It''s still a good idea to wash organic produce, however, because there is always the possibility of pesticide drift, mistakes and other contaminants. Learn more about organic foods, and how to prepare fresh meals in season, here. Learn about the volumes of pesticides used here.
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