Here are a few health problems associated with pesticide-based agrochemicals.
Researchers from Albert Einstein College of Medicine at Montefiore Medical Center in New York City found an association between food allergies and the levels of a pesticide breakdown product in urine. People with high levels of dichlorophenol, a breakdown product of the herbicide 2,4-D and of chlorine used to disinfect tap water, were more likely to suffer allergies to milk, eggs, seafood, and peanuts. It’s not clear what could be happening, says Elina Jerschow, MD, MSc, lead author of the study, but she says it may have something to do with the “hygiene hypothesis.” Dichlorophenol acts like an antimicrobial and could interfere with healthy bacterial levels in the gut, which, in turn, could upset the body’s natural immune reactions to certain allergens in food.
The USDA is about to approve a genetically modified (GMO) corn resistant to 2,4-D, one of the main sources of dichlorophenol in our food supply. If approved, the nonprofit Center for Food Safety estimates that the use of 2,4-D would quadruple, exposing millions more people to potentially food-allergy-inducing pesticide by-products. Buy certified-organic foods and download the True Food Shoppers Guide to avoid non-organic foods that might contain GMOs.
In a review from University College London recently concluded that low levels of pesticides, such as those considered safe for farmworkers who are exposed on a daily basis, cause significant damage to cognitive function—your memory, the speed at which you process information, and your ability to plan for the long term. The review used data from 14 different studies and looked at organophosphate pesticides, which are some of the most harmful chemicals used in agriculture.
Opt for organic produce. Not only will you be avoiding memory-killing pesticides, but also eating a diet rich in fresh fruits and vegetables will ward off memory loss, according to a study in the American Journal of Epidemiology.
Scientists have been noticing a link between pesticides and diabetes for years. The latest evidence comes out of the Endocrine Society’s 94th Annual Meeting, where Robert Sargis, MD, PhD, released the results of a study that suggest tolyfluanid, a fungicide used on farm crops, creates insulin resistance in fat cells. A 2011 study published in Diabetes Care found that overweight people with higher levels of organochlorine pesticides in their bodies also faced a higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
To save money on organic fare raised without pesticides, cook with organic dried beans. In the home, avoid using chemical air fresheners and artificially scented products—these things are also blamed for inducing type 2 diabetes.
The world’s leading autism researchers believe the condition develops from a mix of genes and the pollutants encountered in the mother’s womb and early in life. Many insecticides effectively kill bugs by throwing off normal neurological functioning. That same thing appears to be happening in some children. A 2010 Harvard study found that children with organophosphate pesticide breakdown materials in their urine were far more likely to live with ADHD than kids without the trace pesticide residues.
Switching to an organic diet rapidly eliminates pesticide residues in the body.
Some agrochemical pesticides act as hormone disruptors, meaning they act like a fake version of a naturally occurring hormone in your body, they block important hormone communication pathways in the body, or they interfere with your body’s ability to regulate the healthy release of hormones. More than 50 pesticides are classified as hormone disruptors, and some of them promote metabolic syndrome and obesity as they accumulate in your cells, according to 2012 study appearing in Environmental Health Perspectives.
Food isn’t the only place where these obesogenic chemicals could be lurking. Avoid canned foods and other foods packaged in plastic. Studies have shown that chemicals, such as BPA and phthalates, in food packaging could play a role in obesity as well.
More than sixty studies show a connection between pesticides and the neurological disease Parkinson’s, a condition characterized by uncontrolled trembling. The association is strongest for weed- and bug-killing chemical exposures over a long period of time, meaning it’s important to keep these toxic compounds out of your household routine.
Don’t turn to chemical interventions to kill bugs in your home or garden. Instead, use natural pest control measures.