Detoxification 2: Pesticides Herbicides Fungicides

A) Avoid toxic exposures from fruits and vegetables:

1) Selection: Buying “organic” produce may or may only partially protect you. The San Francisco Chronicle reported that testing of fruit at the San Francisco Whole Foods store demonstrated that 25% of the “organic” produce had significant pesticide residues. See list of fruits and vegetables with the least pesticide residues from the NRDC and other sources.

2) Preparation: You may have grown up thinking you were “washing off the toxins” of your fruits and vegetables by washing them in water. This is not true. Any pesticide, herbicide, fungicide or wax on your fruit or vegetable, is still there (95-97% of it) after you “washed” it under your water facet—This is because these substances are not removed simply with water, and require the use of a detergent, and sometimes even scrubbing, in order to remove them. Researchers at Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio, Texas, tested different fruits and vegetables for pesticides. They found that washing and peeling removed traces of pesticides from about half the samples with detectable residues. Peeling, for instance, eliminated residues on squash, bananas, corn on the cob, oranges, carrots, and potatoes. It also removed fungicides from apples, cucumbers, and other fruits and vegetables that are waxed. Carefully scrub and rinse berries, green beans, and other produce items that you can’t peel, and remove the outer leaves of leafy vegetables. Use a tiny bit of soap (a drop or two of dish detergent in a small tub of water) or a “pesticide wash” (available in many grocery stores) and rinse thoroughly.

B) Use non-toxic techniques for spraying of bugs and weeds:

1) Avoid the most damaging forms of termite control (before and after construction) that can linger for decades;

2) Choose non-toxic types of pest control inside your home.

3) Use safer products for use in gardens lawns (these products are tracked into your home), and minimize your family’s exposure to increasing truck and airborne spraying performed by local governments. See below for use of Vitamin E for protection from the neurotoxic effect of pyrethroid spraying

C) Protect your family airline spraying and exposures to other airline toxins: See Below

D) Protect Your Children: Pet Care Products: See Below

Appendix A Pesticides and Food

A look at the results of the Total Diet Study, conducted by the FDA, for September 2000, gives sobering and typical results. The Total Diet Study is the government’s own monitoring data for pesticide and industrial chemical residues on the food in our supermarkets. It revealed the following:

1)     For non-organic apples, 26 samples of apples were taken that revealed 244 pesticide and industrial chemical residues on the produce. They included carcinogens such as azinphos-methyl, benomyl, benzene, captan, dicofol, dimethoate, methy-parathion and propargite.

2)     For peaches, 26 samples were taken that revealed 195 pesticide and industrial chemical residues.

3)     For fresh or frozen boiled spinach, 26 samples were taken that revealed 196 pesticide and industrial chemical residues, including cancer-causing pesticides such as acephate, chlordane, DDE, dieldrin, dimethoate, nonachlor, permethrin, and toxaphene.

4)     For fresh or frozen boiled collard greens, 26 samples were taken with 198 pesticide and industrial chemical residues, with especially high levels of DDE, dieldrin and endosulfan (an endocrine disrupting chemical)

5)     For peanut butter, 26 samples were taken with 259 pesticide and industrial chemical residues, including benzene hexachloride, dieldrin, and hexachlorobenzene.


Appendix A: Pesticide wash solutions and techniques

Vegetable and Fruit Washes

To make a diluted form of hydrochloric acid to wash off pesticides: fill your kitchen sink with cold water. Add four tablespoons of salt and the juice of half a fresh lemon. Soak fruits and vegetables five to ten minutes (leafy greens two to three minutes)

Commercial vegetable and fruit washes are available which are formulated to remove chemical residue from produce. Examples are Environné and Vitanet, available online or at your local health food stores and some supermarkets. You can also make your own produce wash using a very diluted solution of mild dishwashing detergent (1 tsp detergent per gallon, or 4 liters, water).


For grapes, strawberries, green beans, and leafy vegetables, swirl the foods in a dilute solution of dish detergent and water at room temperature for 5 to 10 seconds, then rinse with slightly warm water.

For the other fruits and vegetables, use a soft brush to scrub the food with the solution for about 5 to 10 seconds, then rinse again with slightly warm water.

Peel Fruits with Higher Residue Levels

Peeling fruits, especially peaches, pears and apples, will help remove residues. Be sure to keep the peelings out of the compost. Some pesticides permeate the skin of the fruit, so this method does not guarantee residual free produce in all cases.

Cut residues by washing produce

We tested our produce unwashed, just as it arrived from the market. But in real life, most people don’t eat fresh produce without doing something to it first, if only rinsing it off. No one has directly studied rinsing with water only, but an ingenious study done at the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio shows that extra-careful food preparation can get rid of a lot of pesticides–though not all.

The San Antonio researchers brought fruits and vegetables in 10-pound lots and tested half of each sample for pesticides. If residues showed up, they prepared the other half of the sample as follows: First, they washed the produce using extremely diluted green Palmolive liquid dish soap, then rinsed with tap water. After that, they did the usual things a home cook would do: stemmed the strawberries, snapped and boiled the green beans, peeled and seeded the oranges, peeled the carrots, and so on.

The results: 53 percent of the washed samples no longer had detectable pesticide residues. The samples that still had residues registered declines ranging from 30 percent to nearly 100 percent.

What are the Common Chemicals and How Do They Contaminate?

Termite Spraying: Chlordane was used In the 1950s until 1988 to treat about 50 million homes for termites. Dursban, containing chlorpyrifos, was the recommended alternative when chlordane was banned in 1988.   Chlordane residues last forever and cannot be cleaned up.  Heptachlor, a component of chlordane, may last for several years in air and for 10 years in soil after application.   Similar chlorinated pesticides like aldrin and dieldrin were also used and last for the lifetime of the home.  Chlorpyrifos, also chlorinated, residues remain 5-10 years after use.  Diazinon, chlorpyrifos and other pesticides are frequently used on lawns and have been sprayed onto carpets for flea control.  Atrazine and other herbicides are contained in weed & feed and weed control products.  When released or tracked into the home these chemicals can contaminate carpets and enter the HVAC system causing circulation throughout the home onto surfaces, clothing, furniture and even the structural components of the home.  Many other pesticides and herbicides used residentially may migrate inside of homes or contaminate well water.

Remember that termite applications are not required by law, but by banks and financial institutions to “protect” their claim on the property. If termiticides must be used, choose the safer forms described by the NRDC (National Research Defense Council). These include Fibronil and Imidacloprid.

More recently, there has been an effort to get cedar oil spray approved, as a completely non-toxic termite spray, in many states.

What Happens When These Pesticides Remain, Even in Low Amounts: (See HW Pesticide and Herbicide Effects: Human Health)

Pesticides and herbicides have been reported as a leading cause of sinusitis, bronchitis, migraines, immune system dysfunction, general malaise, loss of energy, gastrointestinal upset and even memory dysfunction, even at low, chronic levels.  Target organs such as the liver, kidney, blood system, could be affected. Frequently new homeowners can move into a home and live for several years before they become aware that pesticides may be the cause of these health problems.

Protect your family: Spraying on airlines and other public areas:

A) Take Vitamin E to protect the “sodium channels” which are being bombarded by the increased use of the pesticide class called “pyrethroids” –It is now the pesticide of choice in airlines, theatres and other public areas. These can be neurotoxic in high doses (Dr. Munson Muller and his studies of pyrethroids causing illness in Lufthansa stewards).

DDT and pyrethroids act similarly on sodium channels to keep them open leading to hyperexcitation. (Narahashi, Toshio. Nerve membrane ion channels as the target site of insecticides. Mini Rev Med Chem 2002 Aug:2(4):419-32) There are many scientific studies describing the protective effect of Vitamin E (alpha-tocopherol) against pyrethroids.

B) Other toxins released during airline travel: See Handout “Airline Travel: Toxins, Protection. Boeing now has a new airplane that will finally stop recirculating dirty engine air to their passengers.

Protect Your Children: Pet Care Products

Each year, Americans purchase and apply to their pets a vast array of toxic chemicals intended to kill fleas and ticks. Other pet owners take their pets to veterinarians to be dipped in chemicals.

The poisons in many of these products are not safe, either for pets or humans—They not only build up in your child’s system, they can interact with other chemicals to cause illness and chronic disease.

Government regulation of these products has been sketchy, and testing of their impact in the home has been inadequate.

The main culprits are products that rely on a family of chemicals called organophosphates. One of these, tetrachlorvinphos, is still found in stores. Six others were removed from the market, one by one, from 2000 through 2006: chlorpyrifos, dichlorvos, phosmet, naled, diazinon and malathion. Many pet owners may still have leftover supplies of products containing these chemicals in their homes. They were used in brands marketed under a variety of names, including Alco, Americare, Beaphar, Double Duty, Ford’s, Freedom Five, Happy Jack, Hartz, Hopkins, Kill-Ko, Protection, Rabon, Riverdale, Sergeant, Unicorn, Vet-Kem, Victory and Zema. Another family of chemicals, called carbamates, is also of potential concern. The two most common carbamate chemicals used in pet products are called carbaryl and propoxur.

Organophosphates and carbamates work by interfering with the transmission of nerve signals. Since the chemical process they attack is common to insects, humans, and animals, they can harm all of us.. Indeed, thousands of acute toxic poisonings have been logged at poison control centers across the United States. Moreover, ample evidence suggests the possibility of worrisome long-term effects for children—Chronic diseases from additive chemicals.

Children are especially vulnerable for two reasons. First, their nervous systems are still developing, so the violence done by organophosphates can do greater and long-lasting damage. Second, children’s normal behavior brings them in close contact with their pets, and therefore to any poisons applied to those pets. Their hand-to-mouth tendencies make it easy for toxics to be ingested, and not just by petting the family dog and then putting their hands in their mouths. Because children spend their time where the toxics from pet products tend to accumulate — crawling on rugs, playing with pet toys, handling accumulations of household dust, and more — they are likely to come in contact with these poisons even when they do not touch their pet.

Healthier alternatives to these pesticides are readily available. Easy physical measures like frequent bathing and combing of pets can make the use of pesticides unnecessary. Pet products containing insect growth inhibitors also can stop fleas from maturing and reproducing successfully. In addition, newer insecticides, sprayed or spotted onto pets, have been developed that are effective against fleas and ticks without being toxic to the human nervous system. The safety and effectiveness of these alternatives makes the continued use of older, more toxic pet products tragically unnecessary.

The Natural Resources Defense Council has called on retailers to remove organophosphate products from their shelves, and has called on the EPA to immediately ban the use of organophosphate and carbamate pet pesticides — and to take steps to better inform veterinarians, pet owners and the general public about safer alternatives for the control of fleas and ticks on pets.

What Pet Owners Can Do

In the meantime, pet owners can protect their families and their pets with some simple steps.

First, pet owners should begin using safer products on their pets, avoiding organophosphate-based products. Specifically, consumers should avoid products that list chlorpyrifos, dichlorvos, phosmet, naled, tetrachlorvinphos, diazinon or malathion as active ingredients. Pet owners should also avoid carbaryl and propoxur. In many cases, fleas and ticks can be controlled with simple physical measures, such as brushing pets regularly with a flea comb while inspecting for fleas, vacuuming, and mowing frequently in areas where pets spend the most time outdoors. In other cases, these physical measures may be combined with pet products that use “insect growth regulators,” or IGRs. (But be careful to avoid products that combine both insect growth regulators and organophosphates.) If those steps don not suffice, or if your pet is allergic to fleas and needs immediate relief, two newer pesticide products can be sprayed or spotted onto pets: fipronil (marketed as Frontline or Topspot) or imidacloprid (marketed as Advantage).

In particular, pregnant women and families with children should stop using organophosphate- or carbamate-based products immediately. Finally, children should never be allowed to apply flea shampoos, dusts, dips, etc. containing organophosphates or carbamates to their pets. The unfortunate truth is that the EPA has overlooked and underestimated the particular risks to children when evaluating the safety of these products for home use.

How Children are at Greater Risk from Toxins

*    Children absorb greater concentrations of pesticides (poisons) per pound of body weight through inhalation, ingestion and contact with the skin.

*    Children are more likely to play on treated floors and grounds.

Unwashed hands often find their way to the mouth or to unwrapped snacks.

*    Because many pesticides (poisons) are heavier than air, children’s breathing areas are likely to have higher pesticide (poison) concentrations.

*    A child’s biology is different. Their immune system is less developed and may be less protective.

*    Children are extremely vulnerable to classes of synthetic pesticides

(poisons) that mimic naturally occurring hormones or enzymes.

*    Developing cells are more easily damaged than cells that have

completed development. During the rapid growth period of childhood, cells

divide very quickly, making it more likely that a cellular mutation will be

reproduced, thus initiating cancer.

*    Because they are younger, children have a longer life span ahead of

them for chemically induced health problems to progress.

*    Small doses of neurotoxins can drastically impair the learning process

in children.

When poison tolerances are tested, the susceptibilities of children

are not deemed important by testers.


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