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Your Health & Wellness, Iss #107 -- Is Your Food Making You Sick?
August 15, 2012

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Is Your Food Making You Sick?

Pesticides are a general category of synthetic chemicals which have bee designed to kill living pests. They target living organisms like insects, weeds, rodents, and fungicides. Pesticides which attack insects are known as insecticides, rodenticides are used to control rodents, fungicides fight fungi, mold, and mildew while those which fight weeds are known as herbicides.

The widely known pesticide dichloro-diphenyl-trichloroethane (DDT) was found to be extremely effective in 1939 against pests and was put into extensive use in the United States in 1945.

The use of DDT spread globally because it was broad spectrum in its use on insects, broke down slowly, isn't water soluble, it is inexpensive, and easy to apply. DDT was used in the United States until it was banned in 1972 when its toxicity was found to impact birds.

Herbicides are the most widely used pesticide in the United States. According to the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency), about 5.1 billion pounds are used anually.

You might be surprised to learn that pesticides are not only used on crops. Factory farmed, also known as CAFO (confined animal feeding operation), operations use them extensively. Pesticides are directly applied to the fur, skin, or feathers of cattle, pigs, and poultry routinely. This is in an efffort to kill ticks, mites, and other nuisances.

CAFOs by their very nature generate the filthy conditions which attract insect pests.

Did you realize that approximately 66 percent of the grain produced in the United States in used to feed livestock? Tons of pesticides are used to protect the grain.

The pesticides used on cattle, poultry, and pigs are stored in the fatty tissue. Since any attempt to remove these dangerous chemicals prior to shipping to market is cost prohibitive, it winds up on your lunch and dinner plates.

A lot of pesticides can be found on produce too. These chemicals can be difficult to remove so the average person ingests them.

But there is something you can do to minimize consuming pesticides from your produce. Every year the Environmental Working Group (EWG) publishes a guide that lists which produce to buy organically grown and which can be purchased conventionally raised.

By law, organically grown produce cannot have pesticide applied or be genetically modified.

You can view and download the list at the website.

The EWG has washed the following produce prior to testing pesticide levels. They still contained high pesticide residue. Purchase this produce organically grown only:

  • apples
  • celery
  • sweet bell peppers
  • peaches
  • strawberries
  • imported nectarines
  • grapes
  • spinach
  • lettuce
  • cucumbers
  • domestic blueberries
  • potato (white)
  • green beans
  • kale
  • collard greens
  • any leafy green

The produce that showed minimal pesticide levels after being washed are as follows; they can be bought nonorganic:

  • onions
  • sweet corn
  • pineapples
  • avocado
  • asparagus
  • sweet peas
  • mangos
  • eggplant
  • domestic cantaloupe
  • kiwi
  • cabbage
  • watermelon
  • sweet potato
  • grapefruit
  • mushrooms

Produce not in either list falls somewhere between the two. I recommend that produce not in either list and that which has minimal pesticide residue be soaked in a solution of lemon, baking soda, vinegar, and water. However, and I can't overstress this, buy produce listed in the first list organically grown.
Sources: Sustainable
Muir, P. (January 28, 2007). A History of Pesticide Use. Retrieved from Oregon State University

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