Each year, nearly 6 billion pounds of pesticides are sold in the global marketplace - 2.5 to 3 billion pounds of which are purchased in the United States. Pesticides are chemicals that are used to control or kill off pests. These compounds are applied to crops, forests, lawns, gardens, parks, highways, lakes, ponds, office buildings, aircrafts, ships, hospitals, schools, and day-care centers. Affected raw and processed foods are grapes, raisins, apples, apple juice, tomatoes, catsup, tea, citrus, wheat, bran, sugarcane, molasses, mints, oils, plums, and prunes. Pesticides are also deliberate components of some clothing, shampoos, drugs, paints, wallpaper, shower curtains, rugs, blankets, and mattresses. (Wargo, 1996)
The full extent of environmental contamination by pesticides is not known. Yet what we are finding out is alarming. Between 1982 and 1985 the FDA detected pesticide residues in 48 percent of the fresh vegetables and fruits we eat most frequently. In addition, according to the EPA estimates, pesticides have contaminated ground water in approximately 38 states, fouling the drinking water of half of all Americans. Estimates of some 6,000 cases of cancer a year are thought to be caused by most of the one-third approved pesticides in use today that have been tested. Most of the 50,000 pesticides on the market have never been tested for long-term effects. Finally, there is mounting evidence that farmers, farmworkers, and their families who are exposed to pesticides and herbicides have a far greater risk than the general population of developing leukemia and other cancers, birth defects, and diseases of the central nervous system. (Naar, 1990)
In 1962 Rachel Carson alerted the world of the devastating effects of DDT on birds, fish and other animals. Although banned in the United States, DDT is still shipped here after being manufactured in Western Europe. It is also exported to many countries such as Mexico and Columbia from whom we import large quantities of food and coffee. DDT residues were first found in human tisues including blood and the liver, kidney, heart, and central nervous system in 1944. Although 80% of pesticides are used in the industrialized nations, 99% or more of the deaths from pesticides occur in low-income nations, where safety precautions such as label instructions, protective clothing, and field reentry intervals are less likely to be employed. (Wargo, 1996) Additionally, DDT and other pesticides are very persistent and mobile in the environment, having been found in animals in the Antarctic and other areas never sprayed. Another consequence of the widespread and long-term use of pesticides, herbicides, and fungicides is that pests, weeds, and fungi are becoming resistant to the chemicals. This calls for even greater amounts being used in a never-ending cycle of poison. (Naar, 1990)
Some ways to get pesticides out of your food or to prevent extensive use of pesticides are as follows:
a. Apply bugs that act as pest killers for harmful insects.
b. Grow your own food organically based on the principles of using compost to create a fertile soil.
c. Buy organic food at health food stores and farmers’ markets.
d. Wash all produce in clean water or a weak solution of hydrogen peroxide.
e. Peel, scrape, or remove skins from fruits and vegetables.
f. Buy local, buy in season to get fresher and less irradiated food.
g. Beware the perfect apples that can contain harmful pesticides. This example of a cosmetic standard normally encourages pesticide use for other fruits and vegetables. (Naar, 1990)