Maybe you are a parent like me; before kids I used to hear people say “Ah, once you have kids your outlook on life will change” I just brushed it off and thought that nothing could really change the way I was; how wrong could I be?
When you have kids there is a strong, uncontrollable ‘want’ to make sure your children get the best start in life and not in a materialistic sense. Healthy bodies, strong minds and optimistic, fair attitudes are important to their development. The foods they eat have a huge impact on these aspects.
We are all encouraged to eat ‘5 a day’ and live an active and healthy life and for the most part I am guessing you do. Thing is, unless you shop organically, or grow your own food, chances are the fresh produce that you consume will have been treated with a pesticide.
Does it makes you start to question the issues that surround the fresh produce in our stores and the effects pesticides have on humans and the environment?
- Why are pesticides used on fruit and vegetables?
- What are the effects of pesticides on children?
- How do we protect ourselves from pesticides?
- Can you wash pesticides off of fruit and vegetables?
- Are there any alternatives to dangerous pesticides?
The use of pesticides is huge topic; this article will merely scratch the surface. However, we wanted to delve into the uncertainty surrounding these chemicals and their use in agriculture.
Why are pesticides used on fruit and vegetables?
Pesticides are used to control ‘pests’ such as insects, mice, some animals, fungus bacteria and viruses. The word ‘pesticide’ is a general term used to describe a chemical substance that can be found in numerous forms:
- Insecticides – kills insects
- Herbicides – destroys unwanted vegetation
- Fungicides - a solution to kill fungus
- Rodenticides – commonly known as rat poison
- Disinfectant – a solution to kill bacteria
- Wood preservatives – a solution applied to wood to stop rotting caused by insects and mould.
Pesticides are used on fruit and vegetables to keep them free of insects, bacteria and disease however there are increasing concerns that these chemicals are making their way into the produce (rather than being only surface level) having an adverse effect on humans when consumed.
What are the effects of pesticides on children?
Children and babies in the womb are more susceptible to the harmful effects of chemicals because their metabolism works faster, taking on board more air, water and fluid that a fully grown adult.
Pesticides are reported to be one of the reasons for the rise in child illness, cancer, diabetes and learning disabilities.
The rise in other disease like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and reproductive dysfunction in adults has also been linked to pesticide exposure.
“If exposed to aerially sprayed pesticides, children will inhale double the amount of the average adult” UNICEF
As parents and carers we try and keep our littles ones safe from harm, how can we make sure we are doing everything we can to protect our kids from chemicals used in fresh produce production?
There was a study carried out in Sweden to find out the chemicals in the bodies of a typical family who do not eat organic food and the difference in these chemical levels after swapping to organic food for 2 weeks; here are the results:
How do we protect ourselves from pesticides?
Before we can put measures into place to protect, we need to understand the different ways we can be exposed to these chemicals.
PAN-UK (Pesticide Action Group) advise that exposure to pesticides can occur in many ways. Exposure can occur in agriculture, through the treatment of crops, plants and grain stores. It can occur in forestry, gardening, professional and domestic pest control and through the spraying and use of amenities e.g. our parks, pavements and playgrounds. Exposure can also occur through the treatment of wood with preservatives, the treatment of boat hulls with anti-fouling agents, and the treatment of livestock with anti-parasitic preparations, e.g. sheep dip etc. In addition, pesticide residues found on, and in, our food also puts us at risk
It is not only fruit and vegetables that contain pesticides; PAN-UK have detailed all the food sources that contain pesticides and to what degree:
Here are 3 ways to start protecting your family from the dangers of pesticides:
1 – Buy organic groceries
More and more supermarkets stock organic options these days however they don’t have the same extensive range to choose from. In addition, shopping organically can prove to be more expensive – there is an alternative. Where you are unable to find your favourites in the organic section, try following these ‘clean 15’ and ‘dirty dozen’ lists from EWG:
2 – Make sure the insect repellents you use around the home are natural
There are lots of essential oils that will help you rid your home of those pesky bugs without harming you or the little bugs themselves:
3 – Use a safe garden fungicides
Here is a review we did on the eco-friendly, safe garden products available on the market:
Can you wash pesticides off of fruit and vegetables?
There are contradicting reports on how effective washing your fruit and vegetables is, in terms of how much of the chemical is removed.
Scrub with cold water – The centre for science and the environment state that scrubbing with cold water will remove 75-80% of pesticides from the surface of some fruits, leaving others with a larger residue. grapes, apples, guava, plums, mangoes, peaches and pears and fruity vegetables like tomatoes will need to be scrubbed 2 or 3 times.
However the CSE (Centre for Science and the Environment) advises that a 2% salt water solution should be used to rid crops of harmful chemicals.
Vinegar or lemon juice soak ** – (4 parts water and 1 part vinegar or lemon juice) If time is on your side, soak your fruits and vegetables in this for 30 to 60 minutes before rinsing and scrubbing thoroughly with cold water. This process will also keep your food fresh for longer and avoid spoilage.
If time is something of a luxury, mix one tablespoon of lemon juice, two tablespoons of white vinegar and one cup of water in a recyclable spray bottle, shake vigorously before generously spraying onto your produce.
Rub for 30 seconds by hand or with a vegetable brush and rinse thoroughly in cold water.
Are there safe alternatives to harmful pesticides?
The short answer to this is yes, safe alternatives do exists.
With the large range of harmful chemicals brings with it many different alternatives depending on the required application e.g. Insecticides, herbicides, fungicides rodenticides, disinfectants and wood preservatives.
I have mentioned PAN-UK previously; they are the only UK charity focused on tackling the problems caused by pesticides and promoting safe and sustainable alternatives to pesticides in agriculture, urban areas, homes and gardens.
They have a catalogue of information on the alternatives available depending on the topic you are interested in.
I would encourage you to look at their website here:
When it comes to pesticides around the home we have given you some natural alternatives.
Our product ESOL for gardens is another alternative for a number of problems in the home and garden:
- Keeps water butts free of bacteria
- Safely cleans greenhouses and polytunnels
- Disinfects bird houses, baths and feeders
- Kills disease in planting trays
- Effective disinfection between seasons
- Kills fungus and blight
- Disinfects tools and equipment
- Preserves harvested fruit and vegetables
Are pesticides dangerous?
Pesticides are poisons.
The majority of pesticides used in the UK are chemicals designed to kill and destroy insects, viruses, bacteria, plants and animals. There are a wide range of legislative controls surrounding their sale and use in the UK however this doesn’t mean that they do not cause harm.
“A product must provide an extensive range of scientific and technical data. Through this data, they must demonstrate that the product is effective and humane and poses no unacceptable risks to people (including users, local residents and bystanders), wildlife and the environment” HSE
How do you determine an if a risk is acceptable or not?
As a parent I would do not want any risk involved when it comes to feeding my children.
Crops have to be protected to ensure food can be grown and supplied to the retailers at acceptable costs BUT if there are alternatives the risks could be eliminated.
The use of pesticides is a huge topic; the aim of this article was to open up your thought process, give you food for thought and maybe, have you think twice when you are buying fresh produce.
Make smart choices, don’t take the risk
Did you like this article?
There were lots of links in this article, maybe you missed on? Resources **How to wash fruit and vegetables Wide Range of Diseases Linked to Pesticides The impact of pesticides on children - UNICEF Health effects of pesticides PAN-UK Alternatives to pesticides Website sources PAN-UK EWG Shopping Buy ESOL for gardens Buy Avon Skin so Soft here Videos Sweedish family eat organically for 2 weeks