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The Effects of Pesticides in Food

author image Lisa Weber
Lisa Weber is a freelance writer/editor and former special education teacher. She has a bachelor's degree in journalism and professional writing, and a master's degree in special education. Over the last 15 years, she has written for a variety of newspapers, magazines, and on-line publications.
The Effects of Pesticides in Food
Pesticides are intended to protect food from insects and rodents. Photo Credit Anthony Brown/iStock/Getty Images


Pesticides, which are any substance intended to prevent or destroy pests, are used to protect food from bacteria, weeds, mold, insects and rodents. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, pesticides can be harmful to people, animals or the environment because they are designed to kill or harm living organisms. Because of this, pesticide residue on the foods you eat can have an effect on your health. Though the government regulates pesticide use, residues are still found in our food supply.

Learning Problems

The Effects of Pesticides in Food
Children frequently exposed to pesticides are more likely to have ADHD. Photo Credit bradleyhebdon/iStock/Getty Images

According to a May 17, 2010, article published on CNN.com, children who are frequently exposed to a small amount of organophosphates, a pesticide found on commercially grown fruit and vegetables, are more likely to have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder than children who have been exposed less often. Exposure to these pesticides has also been linked to behavior and learning problems in children.

Nervous System

The Effects of Pesticides in Food
Organophsphates, frequently found on peaches, also affect the nervous system. Photo Credit Liv Friis-Larsen/iStock/Getty Images

Organophosphates have also been shown to affect the nervous system. According to the Department of Natural Resources and Environment, signs of an affected nervous system include excess salivation, stomach pain, vomiting, constipation and diarrhea. The most pesticides are found on celery, peaches, berries, apples, peppers, greens, grapes and potatoes. Eating these commercially grown foods more frequently might increase exposure.

Breast Cancer

The Effects of Pesticides in Food
Pesticides can be linked to some cases of breast cancer. Photo Credit sakhorn38/iStock/Getty Images

According to Environmental Health Perspectives, a journal published by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, growing evidence shows that pesticides found in commercially grown food can be linked to some cases of breast cancer. The risk increases with combined with other factors, including lifestyle, diet and genes.

Weakened Immune System

The Effects of Pesticides in Food
Pesticides may alter the immune system. Photo Credit Nancy Nehring/iStock/Getty Images

According to the Global Healing Center, several studies have shown that pesticides alter the immune system in animals and make them more susceptible to disease. Pesticides have been found to reduce the numbers of white blood cells and disease-fighting lymphocytes, making their bodies unable to kill bacteria and viruses. According to the GHC, they also affect the development of the spleen and thymus and spleen, two immune organs. However, studies on humans have been inconclusive.

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