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Reduce Pesticide Exposure in Your Food

Pesticide happens, but you can minimize your exposure to those pesticides. Knowing what they are and how to avoid them is the first line of defense for your health!

It’s no surprise that our food supply is contaminated by a number of pesticides, herbicides, and other synthetic chemicals. Sadly, because of the wide use of pesticides and herbicides, it’s now difficult to avoid ingesting them, at least in some quantity, as they’re showing up now even in our organic food, air, and water. According to the Pesticide Action Network of America, in California alone between 1991–2000, two billion pounds of chemicals were used, and across the nation annually, approximately 1.2 billion pounds are used. You can see why avoiding them is nearly impossible these days!

While there are a number of different chemicals used, there are a few that are most common. We’ll explore some of the most common pesticides and how you can work to reduce your exposure to them.


Atrazine is a weed killer that is widely used, in fact, more than 75 million pounds are used in the US annually, primarily in the Midwest where corn crops are abundant. Because atrazine is used so much, it’s showing up in rivers and in our water supply. This is a huge concern because atrazine causes damage to the endocrine system, leads to cancer, birth defects, and infertility.


DDT was used as an insecticide/pesticide for many years until the US finally banned it in 1972. Though it was banned several years ago, this toxic chemical is still found in the environment and in soils as it takes approximately fifteen years to break down. Some other countries still allow DDT, so certain imported foods can be exposing you to this chemical. Exposure of DDT is a problem as it damages the liver, is carcinogenic, damages the nervous system, and can cause infertility.


This pesticide has gained a bit more awareness lately. Many individuals use it in their home gardens. Glyphosate is linked with a number of health concerns including gut and digestion problems, food allergies and sensitivities, cancer, infertility, birth defects, and neurological disorders.

Chlorpyrifos Methyl

This is another pesticide heavily used on stored grain products. It is also commonly found in cotton, almonds, oranges, apples, and corn crops. This pesticide can overstimulate the nervous system, leading to nausea, headaches, fatigue, dizziness, confusion, and respiratory problems.


Another pesticide commonly used that can interfere with proper bodily functioning, especially of the nervous system. Malathion is also being found in the air and water supply, and high exposure can cause severe problems including death (if exposure is high enough).


This is a herbicide that’s known to be carcinogenic. It’s used heavily on corn, soy and sorghum crops and is also commonly used on lawns and trees. Aside from increasing cancer risk, exposure can also lead to nausea, breathing difficulty, and jaundice.


This pesticide is widely used in commercial agriculture crops. This pesticide primarily harms the nervous system and is also an endocrine disruptor and carcinogen.

Metam Sodium

This chemical is primarily used as a pesticide and fumigant and is heavily used on potato crops. It, too, is a hormone disruptor and can cause nausea, birth defects, and difficulty breathing.

As you can see, no one wants these chemicals in their body. While completely avoiding exposure is nearly impossible, there are some ways you can work to minimize exposure to them.

Purchase Organic Food

While organic food isn’t guaranteed to be free from any contaminants, because it’s held to a higher standard, it will at least be much lower than the conventional counterpart.

Purchase Local

Local and ideally organic and in-season is generally the safest and purest form of getting your food free from toxic chemicals. Don’t be afraid to ask your local farmer or market questions!

Grow Your Own

If you live in a place where farms, farmers markets, or even health foods stores aren’t really available, or even if you do, grow your own plants where you can control what’s used on them!

Wash Your Food

Make sure to wash your produce as good as possible before preparing or eating it.

Clean Your Water

Though filters can’t completely remove all pesticide residues, it can at least decrease the amount and thus your exposure to them.

Even if completely avoiding pesticides isn’t an option, at least doing the best you can to reduce your exposure can go a long way in maintaining your health!

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