The fear of ingesting unknown harmful additives along with foodstuffs is a well-known one – we take several precautions to prevent accidental consumption of pesticides, insecticides and other potentially harmful chemicals while consuming our meals, fruits and vegetables. While we are pragmatic about its negative effects on us – including cancer, respiratory diseases, reproductive problems, and disorders of the immune and endocrine systems – we often tend to forget that the toxicity of pesticides affects children in more ways than it affects us.
Children are more susceptible to the negative effects of toxic additives that are used to increase the lifespan of produce or to keep them fresher for long. Besides the laundry list of health problems that are a result of pesticides, children are also at risk of behavioural irregularities and disorders, learning disabilities and long-term damage to the brain and nervous system, due to changes in the chemical make-up in the brain. Quite possibly, most of these issues will reflect in the later stages of the childâ€™s life.
Therefore, when it comes to pesticides in your childâ€™s food, here are some facts that you must know:
#1 Children are more vulnerable to pesticides than adults
Little ones have the tendency to consume a limited number of foods, thereby increasing exposure to specific pesticides. They may also absorb pesticides more easily â€“ due to their still-developing gastrointestinal tract, their bodies may have lesser ability to break down toxins. Moreover, pesticides can block absorption of vital nutrients required for healthy physical and mental development.
#2 Food is not the only way in for pesticides
Your child can be exposed to pesticides in drinking water as well! Pesticides used in the home garden or yard or other open areas, can also make their way to your children. It is also known that pesticides can cross the placental barrier; therefore, expectant mothers need to take special care to minimise exposure to these toxins.
#3 Childproof your home
For starters, child-proof your home by locking away all potentially harmful products in a cabinet or cupboard – keep them away from your childrenâ€™s reach. These products include bleach, kitchen and bath sanitizers and disinfectants, mould or mildew killers, insect and bug repellents, rat and rodent poisons, weed killers, flea or tick powders and shampoos for pets and chemicals used in the swimming pool.
#4 Thoroughly wash all fruits and veggies
Although a common practice in most households, you can never go wrong in taking extra care to make sure that all traces of pesticides have been washed away. Thoroughly wash any fruit or vegetable that you purchase, pluck or has been given to you. Additional care needs to be taken with fruits and vegetables that are going to be kept for fresh or raw consumption.
#5 Go organic!
Organic produce are grown without the use of any synthetic pesticides, herbicides or fertilizers. They are extremely safe for consumption and help reduce your family and your childâ€™s ingestion of pesticides greatly. Organic fruits, vegetables, pulses and greens are better for your children because of the absence of any trace of synthetic and unnatural additives.
#6 Create your own vegetable patch
One of the best ways after going organic, to avoid pesticides, is to grow your own vegetables! Although you will require a dedicated garden area or portion of your terrace for this purpose, you can convert a small corner into a wonderful haven of safe produce for your family. You can easily grow tomatoes, beans and other legumes, sprouts and so on by yourself, with a little help from the internet! This way, you are doubly sure of the food that your child is consuming, and that it is pesticide-free.
#7 Peel out outer leafy layers
Since pesticides tend to settle on the outer skins, peels and leafy layers of fruits and vegetables, it is a good practice to remove these layers so as to avoid any trace of pesticide in your diet. Although this is not possible for all fruits and vegetables, you can use this step wherever feasible.
#8 Be wary of pesticides in meat
Chemicals are fat-soluble â€“ therefore, trim away any visible fat from your meats, so that you keep toxic chemicals at bay. Preferably consume lean meat like poultry and fish, and cook the meat thoroughly. Opt for organic meats as well! You can also incorporate vegetable proteins such as nuts, beans, tofu and soya, and include eggs in your diet.
Your childrenâ€™s health is a priority for you; keep yourself up-to-date on the harmful effects of synthetic pesticides so that you know what you are dealing with. Ensure that your child drinks purified water, and avoid pesticides in your home and garden, in addition to the above steps to give your child a happy, healthy, pesticide-free life.