There’s no getting around it: pesticides are bad for you. They’re literally poison – toxins designed to kill pests and preserve food, that all too often end up in our own bodies, where they can wreak havoc with our entire system.
Although theoretically we should simply be able to wash these harmful chemicals off our food, studies have shown that this doesn’t always necessarily work; in many cases, pesticides can end up not only on the surface of our food, but inside our food as well. And vulnerable populations, like children and pregnant women, can end up bearing the brunt of the ill effects of these toxins(1).
Here are some of the lesser-known effects that long-term exposure to pesticides can have on our health:
1. Pesticides May Give You Allergies
There’s a strong correlation between the ingestion of pesticides, and the development of allergies and sensitivities to certain foods. The evidence is especially strong regarding pesticides that contain the chemical dichlorophenol, a chemical widely used in the production of pesticides and also the chlorination of water(2).
2. Pesticide Exposure Can Lead To Memory Loss And Dementia
“Poisoning by acute high-level exposure to certain pesticides has well-known neurotoxic effects, but whether chronic exposure to moderate levels of pesticides is also neurotoxic is more controversial,” one article states. But several studies have linked lower-level pesticide exposure to the development of neurological disorders like Parkinson’s and dementia, as well as “mild cognitive dysfunction, similar to that described for Gulf War syndrome”(3).
3. Pesticides Are Linked To Diabetes
While there is still research to be done in this area, many scientists and doctors feel that the link between pesticides and diabetes is well worth exploring. “Pesticide use has increased dramatically worldwide and the effects of pesticides on glucose metabolism are too significant for a possible diabetogenic link to be dismissed,” one review explains(4).
4. Pesticides Are Carcinogenic
Many commonly used pesticides are known carcinogens and tumor growth promoters, according to an early study from the journal Cancer Causes And Control(5). Epidemiologic studies have linked various types of pesticides to soft tissue sarcoma, malignant lymphoma, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, leukemia, lung cancer, breast cancer, and ovarian cancer.
5. Pesticides Disrupt Your Hormones
“Endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDC) are compounds that alter the normal functioning of the endocrine system of both wildlife and humans,” one review explains. “A huge number of chemicals have been identified as endocrine disruptors, among them several pesticides.”(6) Hormone imbalances can cause all kinds of problems, including difficulty losing weight, mood issues, and thyroid problems.
6. Pesticides Are Bad For Your Reproductive Health
Consistent exposure to pesticides is associated with an increased risk for recurrent miscarriages(7) and birth defects; it’s also bad news for male fertility as well(8). Bottom line: if you’re pregnant or trying to get pregnant, it’s in your best interest to avoid exposure to pesticides as much as possible.
Avoiding The Negative Impact Of Pesticides
As the serious health consequences of pesticides show, eating organic isn’t just a trendy phase – it’s your best defence against the harmful impact of pesticides. In fact, studies have shown that not only is less exposure to pesticides good for you, but organic foods are more nutritious as well(9). If you’ve been waiting for a reason to make the switch to organic produce, consider this your wake-up call.
If you, like many, can’t afford to always eat organic, try to avoid foods from the Environmental Research Group’s Dirty Dozen list. These are foods that contain high levels of pesticides even when washed(10).