It’s Spring, and many of us are planting gardens and enjoying the unusually cool air here in Tucson. We’ve got several Farmers’ Markets around town, as well as natural food stores. That being said, the majority of us go to “regular” grocery stores to buy produce and protein.
There is a lot of information out there that promotes the consumption of organic fruits and vegetables. This is because pesticides and chemical fertilizers have many negative impacts on our health.
According to research collected by the College of Agricultural Science at Pennsylvania State University:
For all pesticides to be effective against the pests they are intended to control, they must be biologically active, or toxic. Because pesticides are toxic, they are also potentially hazardous to humans, animals, other organisms, and the environment. Therefore, people . . . must understand the relative toxicity, potential health effects, and preventative measures to reduce exposure to the products they use. (emphasis mine)
Pesticides and household chemicals can have multiple impacts on our bodies.
- Dermatitis is the most common effect. Dermatitis can cause skin inflammation, rashes, hives or blisters, depending on the level of exposure to the chemicals and potential allergic reactions.
- Pesticides can also impact our lungs, nose, and throat. Pesticides can cause people to develop chronic coughing, sniffing, or sneezing. It can also make our eyes feel dry or scratchy. Long-term exposure can also cause folks to develop asthma.
- The digestive track can also be harmed. Frequent nausea/vomiting and other intestinal issues such as ulcers are common.
- Although thyroid disorders are frequently genetic, the thyroid can also suffer because of pesticide exposure, especially for women. (Check out this article from Scientific American for more information about your thyroid.)
- Chronic headaches and fatigue are additional health problems that are linked to pesticides.
Don’t let the long list of pesticide problems get you down. There are many ways for you to counteract the hazards of pesticides. Beyond Pesticides is nonprofit organization that has a wealth of information about how to decrease the negative effects that pesticides have on our health.
1. Wash your food before you prep or eat it.
There are many reasons to wash your food before you eat it, even if it’s labeled organic.
One is what the produce industry refers to as “pesticide drift”: The wind can—and frequently does—blow chemicals from nearby conventional fields onto organic crops. Pesticide contamination can also happen in the warehouse, since many produce companies use the same facilities to process organic and conventional products.”
The USDA does not have a formalized certification process for labeling food products as “organic.” Even if farmers don’t use pesticides to corral insects, they can still use chemical fertilizers. An ideal organic farm would use manure, worm casings, or bone meal to fertilize the soil. But let’s be honest – manure is poop. Do yourself a favor. Get into the habit of washing produce before you eat it.
2. Use nontoxic methods for cleaning your house.
Many people believe that chemicals such as bleach are the only way to sanitize their homes. We like the way scented cleaners smell. However, there are better ways to keep your house clean. Vinegar and baking soda are both cheap and easy to use. Vinegar is perfect to use for cleaning windows, tables, and counter tops. You can use baking soda to remove stains from the bathtub and sink. Hydrogen peroxide is another handy item that can be used to disinfect your home.
3. Utilize natural methods for repelling insects.
Insects are commonly viewed as “the enemy,” but we need to respect that ants and other outdoor “pests” play a vital role in our environment. Birds eat insects to get protein. Potato bugs and worms help break up the soil so that plants can grow. Aphids might make a gardener disgruntled, but you can divert them to specific areas of your yard by planting greens like purslane. You’ll be able to keep your rosebushes and tomato plants happy. The birds can eat the insects. It’s a win-win solution.
Chickens are another natural method of pest control. Chickens like to forage through your compost. This can decrease the number of flies and mosquitoes you have in your yard. Chickens also like to eat bugs. In return, chickens provide humans eggs. It’s a bilateral relationship where everyone wins.
Common household items, such Ivory bar soap or Earth-friendly dish-washing soap, can be watered down and poured onto soil to deter insects. Herbs such as catnip, mint, rosemary, basil, and lavender have been shown to be more effective insect repellents than chemical toxins. Garlic is another plant that can protect your garden and compliment your cooking.
If all else fails, check out this guide to help you find the least toxic form of insecticide to thwart specific garden visitors.
4. Weed your yard on a regular basis.
A lot of desert-dwellers worry about ticks infesting their yard, especially in the Spring and Summer. The number one way to deter ticks is to weed your yard on a regular basis. Ticks like to live and breed in weedy areas. Don’t rely on chemical weed killers. Regular yard work can help you fend off these little blood suckers. It also gives you the opportunity to enjoy the sunshine and be at one with Mother Earth.
5. Take advantage of natural healing methods.
Acupuncture is a prime example of an “alternative” (or more appropriately “ancient”) healing method that can help envelope the body with positive, healthy energy. Remember the list of potential health consequence that were listed earlier in this post? Acupuncture can address all of them, including damage to the body’s endocrine system (the part of the body responsible for hormone production and reproductive health).
Don’t give up.
You may not be able to buy organic food 100% of the time, but you do have the power to minimize the impacts of pesticides in your life. Call The Gathering Point Community Acupuncture and make an appointment. You’ll be glad you did.