Aches? Pains? Nausea? You've Been Pesticide Poisoned!
by Dr Gina Shaw

Most of you are aware that there are poisons in non-organic food, but are you aware that you might be experiencing ill-health right now due to pesticide poisoning?  Do you get unexplained headaches, even though you are on a healthy diet?  Do you suffer unexplained aches and pains, mental confusion, cold and flu-like symptoms, chronic tiredness, etc?  Although these symptoms can often be caused by other things, it may be that your body is attempting to detoxify from toxic pesticide residues which you may have unwittingly consumed.  Remember:  If it's poisonous to small animals i.e. insects, it is also quite likely to be poisonous to us too! 

Indeed, blood disorders such as leukemia, anemia, etc. have increased with the use of deadly pesticides.  In fact, over 500,000 illnesses in the US alone are reported to be as a result of serious pesticide poisoning. However, since you may not have become ill directly after consuming pesticide-laden food, you may not have noticed their effects.  Unfortunately, it is pretty hard to avoid having pesticide poisoning these days since agrobusiness has reached most areas of the world now and winds and rain carry toxins in the atmosphere which will inevitably pollute organic crops too.  For instance banana plantations in Costa Rica are widespread, and the small-scale organic producers are tucked in between the non-organic farms.  What does this mean?  This means that it is inevitable that even organic bananas carry pesticide residues.  Of course, this may not be an isolated example.

Chlorpyrifos is the world's leading insecticide in volume terms and is also known to be one of the leading causes of acute insecticide poisoning in the US, according to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).  It is commonly sprayed onto wheat, fruits, etc. Symptoms of acute chlorpyrifos poisoning in humans include headache, nausea, dizziness, muscle twitching, weakness, increased sweating and salivation, and occur when cholinesterase activity has been reduced by about 50%. Unconsciousness, convulsions, and death can result with sufficient exposure. These symptoms are common to all organophosphate insecticides with delayed symptoms one to four weeks after exposure of numbness, tingling, weakness and cramping in the lower limbs which can progress into paralysis. Effects on the central nervous system may include confusion, drowsiness, depression, difficulty concentrating, slurred speech, insomnia, nightmares, and a form of toxic psychosis resulting in bizarre behaviour.  Chlorpyrifos has also been linked to cancer and birth defects.

Disturbing isn't it?  Don't give up hope though!  There are ways of avoiding seriously endangering our bodies from pesticides - the easiest one of course is to have as much organic produce as possible (organic farming is much kinder to animals and has less of a negative impact upon our environment too).  Growing your own is often more practical than you realise.  I have only a small patio but have managed to grow the following over the last few years: peas (both winter and summer varieties), strawberries, tomatoes, cucumber (1 - the rest died!), spinach and lettuce.

According to the Environmental Working Group and according to recent research, the safest foods to eat as far as non-organic foods is concerned (i.e. they contain the least amount of pesticides) are the following:-

                  Sweet Potatoes
                  Brussel Sprouts
                  Grapes (domestic only)
                  Green Onions

(Please note I do not necessarily endorse the consumption of all of these foods)

Twelve of the most pesticide-laden foods include:

                  Bell Peppers
                  Mexican Cantaloupe
                  Green Beans
                  Imported Grapes

Is it better to eat organic?
Absolutely.  No doubt about it.  Aside from containing less pesticide residues, recent research shows that organic food contains many, many times more nutrients than non-organic.  Researchers at Rutgers University purchased selections of fresh produce at supermarkets and health food stores in the U.S. and analyzed for them for mineral content. Up until then there was very little hard evidence to support this supposition. Rutgers researchers expected the organic produce to be slightly higher in comparison, but even they were astounded. The amount of iron in the organic spinach was 97% more than the commercial spinach, and the manganese was 99% greater in organic food. Many essential trace elements were completely absent in the commercial produce whereas they were comparatively abundant in their organically grown counterparts.

Here are the results:-

(Measurements shown are the major minerals milli-equivalents per 100 grams dry weight: trace elements, parts per million dry matter.)

phosphorous magnesium
snap beans: organic 10.45 0.36
commercial 4.04 0.22

organic 10.38 0.38
commercial 6.12 0.18

organic 24.48 0.43
commercial 7.01 0.22

organic 14.2 0.35
commercial 6.07 0.16

organic 28.56 0.52
commercial 12.38 0.27

Mineral: sodium manganese
snap beans:
organic 40.5 60
commercial 15.5 14.8

organic 60.0 43.6
commercial 17.5 13.6

organic 71.4 9.3
commercial 16 13.1

organic 23.5 9.2
commercial 4.5 4.5

organic 96.20 3.9
commercial 47.5 46.9

Mineral: copper ash
snap beans:
organic 99.7 8.6
commercial 29.1 0.9

organic 148.3 20.4
commercial 33.7 0.8

organic 176.5 12.2
commercial 53.7 0

organic 148.3 6.5
commercial 58.8 0

organic 237 69.5
commercial 84.6 0

Mineral: calcium potassium
snap beans:
organic 73 60
commercial 10 2

organic 42 13
commercial 72

organic 37 169
commercial 6 1

organic 36 68
commercial 3 1

organic 88 117
commercial 12 1

1. The Life Science Institute - Life Science Course - 1986
2. 'Twelve Worst And Best Non-Organic Produce Items For Pesticide Residue' - 
   The Environmental Working Group - 2001
3. 'Is It Better To Eat Organic? By Arthur Baker, MA - 2001
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