Three hints to lower your exposure to pesticides


In our last post we discussed research, which has found strong links between pesticides and neurologic diseases, and pesticides have already been linked to other serious illnesses including cancer and hormonal irregularities. Today we look at how you can help protect yourself from this risk.

The health risk is greatest to children (smaller body weight and a developing nervous system) and pregnant women, but any of us may develop long-term problems from pesticide exposure.

ANVISA has a program called PARA (O Programa de Análise de Resíduos de Agrotóxicos em Alimentos) which analyzes pesticide residue in a select number of fruits and vegetables. But the PARA document and  the ANIVISA site is highly technical and rather confusing, so let’s cut through the jargon and present just 3 big ideas about what you can do.

We considered data from both ANVISA and the Environmental Working Group (EWG), a US non-profit organization highly respected for their pesticide risk-reduction campaigns.

1. Don’t let the risk of pesticides scare you away from eating vegetable and fruits

According to the EWG , “The health benefits of a diet rich in fruits and vegetables outweigh the risks of pesticide exposure.”

2. Buy organic whenever you can, especially for vegetables/fruits (V/F) that tend to have high pesticide residue

Organic V/F should not contain any pesticide residue whatsoever, and the more items you can buy organic, the better. However, organics are not always available and are more expensive. We hope though that you can buy organic at least these V/F, that tend to have higher pesticide residue (especially those near the top of the list):


Green Peppers





Collard Greens






3. Wash “conventional” V/F especially well, but even organics should be washed to diminish bacteria and viruses. Here’s how:

It’s good to be more careful when you wash conventional V/F, because you also want to diminish the bacteria/viruses, as well as remove most of the pesticide residue. Note that it’s usually not possible to remove even 99% of the residual with ordinary washing, because usually the V/F has absorbed some of the chemicals into its tissues.

Special sprays are available that supposedly remove more pesticide residue, but they has not been proven. The best approach is to wash V/F in running water for at least 30 seconds, while rubbing or scrubbing, with a brush if appropriate.

For lettuce and vegetables with leaves, remove the outermost leaves, which tend to have the highest concentration of bacteria, viruses, and pesticides. To remove an even higher percentage of residual from V/Fs (such as apples), peel them. But know that you might also be removing some of the nutritional benefit with peeling, so you need to decide for yourself what is more important.

Some American sites recommend washing also with a dilute (10%) vinegar solution to decrease especially the bacteria and viruses. Some Brazilian sites favor solutions of weak bleach (1 tablespoon of bleach in a liter of water), or a weak sodium bicarbonate solution (1 tablespoon of sodium bicarbonate in a liter of water).

Again, you can decide for yourself if you want to take these extra washing precautions. One approach would be to always do the basic wash, but if you or someone eating the V/F might have a diminished immune system, add the vinegar, weak bleach, or weak sodium bicarbonate wash as well.

Should you wish to find a doctor, of any specialty, anywhere in Brazil, use our main website:

Read also in ProcuraMed:

Pesticide exposure linked to Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease

Eating vegetable fats improves survival of men with prostate cancer
















Esta postagem também está disponível em: Portuguese (Brazil)

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