While it would be ideal to eat all organic, it isn’t always possible for loads of reasons. So have you ever wondered how to wash fruit & vegetables to reduce the traces of pesticides etc? Here are a few tips for you…
Why we need to consider how we wash our vegetables…
We know that pesticides are used on fruit and vegetables to prevent the crops from being attacked by disease, insects and bacteria. Certain crops are more susceptible than others. For example, fruit & vegetables with harder skins like pumpkin need less pesticides than soft fruits and vegetables such as strawberries and spinach. The residue from pesticides leaches into crops and can remain on the skin. Unless we peel off the skin, we should thoroughly wash your fruit and vegetables before eating.
Common pesticides used on fruit & vegetables…
There are lots of different types of pesticides, each with specific actions. Herbicides, fungicides, insecticides and bactericides are the ones most commonly used on fruit and vegetables. These pesticides are used to destroy fungus, weeds, insects and microorganisms. Pesticides are either biodegradable, which means they can be broken down by microbes into harmless compounds, or persistent, which means that they can take months or years to break down. Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) are a type of pesticide which are resistant to degradation. So, they can remain in the environment for a long time.
POPs are very harmful and have been linked to cancer, diabetes, hormone disruption and neurological disease. They are now banned in many countries. However, their prolonged use over the years means they may still be present in the environment.
The effects of pesticides on fruit & vegetables…
DDT (Dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane) is an example of a highly toxic POP. In the 1900’s, it was discovered that DDT was an effective insecticide, so it was used extensively by farmers. The harmful biological effects of DDT were only uncovered twenty years later. It is now banned in many countries due to its negative effect on health.
Some of the substances found in pesticides include:
- Glyphosate, also known as Roundup, is an endocrine disruptor. It has been linked to cancer, liver disease, reproductive issues, birth defects, placental issues and DNA damage in embryos.
- Atrazineis another endocrine disruptor known to cause serious health conditions, especially in utero, resulting in low foetal weight, limb defects, and heart and urinary complications.
- Chlorpyrifosis linked to neurological effects and developmental disorders in children, autoimmune disorders and respiratory issues in adults.
- Heptachlor is a carcinogen associated with liver tumours, gastrointestinal upset and nervous system symptoms such as irritability and dizziness.
DDT (Dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane) is an example of a highly toxic POP. In the 1900’s, it was discovered that DDT was an effective insecticide so it was used extensively by farmers. The harmful biological effects of DDT were only uncovered twenty years later. It is now banned in many countries due to its negative effect on health.
So how can we reduce pesticides on our fruit & vegetables?
We can start by always washing our fruit & vegetables, even if they are organic. Buying local is also a good idea because we know what regulations are being implemented in our own country (see resource link below for Irish regulations).
Courtesy of CNM Ireland, here are 3 ways to effectively reduce pesticides from fruit & vegetables:
- Soak in salt water using Himalayan salt or sea salt for 20 minutes. Researchers discovered that 10% salt water solution is effective for removing common pesticide residues including DDT. Rinse with water afterwards.
- Use bicarbonate of soda(also known as bicarb and baking soda) to clean your fruit and vegetables. Add 1 teaspoon of bicarb to 2 cups of water and soak for 15 minutes. Rise with water afterwards.
- Soak in vinegar(any type) and water for 20 minutes. You need to use 1-part vinegar to 4-parts water, so 10 ml of vinegar would need to be mixed with 40 ml of water. Porous fruits such as berries may become soggy when soaked for too long.
- If you’re strapped for time and you can’t soak your produce, give your fruit & vegetables a wash under the tap for 20 seconds. This will help remove some of the pesticide residue and also clear away bacteria and dirt (especially all the dirty fingers which it’s come into contact with).