Chemicals such as pesticides, antibiotics and hormones are used widely in plant and animal farming. There are more than 7000 pesticides, herbicides and fungicides alone, registered in Australia. Pesticides boost crop production and ensure a higher quality of produce while antibiotics and hormones, used in animal farming, promote growth and reduce feed requirements. Although the use of these chemicals in Australia is strictly regulated to ensure consumer safety, there is always the possibility that pesticides currently deemed safe may one day be revealed as hazardous. Moreover, these regulations do not take into account the cumulative effect of these chemicals from the multitude of food stuffs and drinks we consume and nor do they allow for the fact that these chemicals accumulate in body fat – making us walking toxic time bombs.

Although there are no studies directly linking pesticides to disease, what we do know is that those people with high exposures to pesticides (such as farm workers), have higher incidences of cancer. Moreover, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) ranks pesticide residues among the top 3 environmental cancer risks. Pesticides are also “endocrine disrupters” – disturbing the fine hormonal balance in our bodies and possibly contributing to the rise in cancers of the breast, prostate, ovaries and testes and to infertility. The consumption of multiple pesticides in foods has also been linked to brain and nervous system damage. Babies and children are at an even greater risk than adults. Their intake of food and drink is higher per kilo of body weight than adults – at a critical time when their brains, organs, immune and detoxification systems are still developing.

Some simple ways to reduce your exposure to pesticides, antibiotics and hormones include:

  • #1 Buy organic produce.
  • Thoroughly wash all fruits and vegetables (you can soak them in a large bowl of water mixed with ¼ cup of vinegar for 15-20 mins then rinse well)
  • Buy from local farmers/growers markets
  • Grow your own vegetables
  • Peel vegetables and remove the outer layer of leaves
  • Trim meats of visible fat (many chemical residues are fat soluble)

Certified Organic products are grown and processed without the use of artificial chemicals, fertilisers, and pesticides. However, organic farming is not merely farming without synthetic chemicals – it is better for the soil, the environment, the animals, you, plus it tastes better and contains no GMO’s.

Unfortunately, for most of us, going completely organic is almost impossible unless you win the lottery or grow your own fruit and vegies plus rear your own cattle! Tests show that some foods are more contaminated with pesticides than others. According to the Environmental Working Group in the US, the worst culprits or “Dirty Dozen” (and those you might consider buying organic) include: apples, celery, sweet bell peppers, peaches, strawberries, nectarines, grapes, spinach, lettuce, cucumbers, blueberries and potatoes. Their so called “Clean 15” include: onion, sweet corn, pineapple, avocado, cabbage, sweet peas, asparagus, mangoes, eggplant, kiwi, cantaloupe, sweet potatoes, grapefruit, watermelon and mushrooms.

Caitlin Bancroft is a qualified naturopath and is planning to start consulting again later this year. She is contributing regular posts with nutrition and lifestyle tips to help improve your health and wellbeing.