For various reasons, the health hazards of animal products are well known and widely disseminated. So much so, in fact, that this could lead us to think that plant products are safer or even that they are not involved in public health problems. But this is not so. Hazards are also present in plant products, some of them important: for example, the residues from pesticides.
Using these substances is so widespread that it seems inevitable that they will be present in food. Although the importance of organic farming is growing every day, the truth is that farming practices that allow the massive production of vegetables rely on the general use of chemical products. It is also true that the industry is evolving and that it is searching for effective substances that will not cause long-term health problems for consumers. However, the low cost of some products explains why they are still being used.
Lately, concern has grown about the potential adverse effects on health of highly persistent contaminants, of which organochlorine pesticides are some of the most important. They have a great ability to dissolve in fat, which allows them to accumulate in the body, so that small but continuous exposure to them may finally result in a noticeable biological load. That is, depending on the composition of their total diet, some persons might reach too high levels. Some of the risks of persistent contaminants are their capacity to produce cancer, mutations and hormonal alterations.
It should also be taken into account that we do not know enough about the degree of exposure in the total diet and the accumulated levels in people, except for some concrete studies. Although studies do exist that provide some information. For instance, they mention the presence of non-persistent pesticides in almost 30% of fruits, 20% of cereals and cereal products, 11% of herbs and spices and nine percent of teas and herbal teas. As to persistent pesticides, such as lindane or endosulfan, whose presence is more relevant because they accumulate in the body and because of their health effects, they have been detected in almost three percent of vegetables and in one percent of cereals and cereal products.
Reading all of this information, many people will wonder if they should continue consuming these products. Our recommendation is that of course they should, although they should include them in a diet that is as varied as possible. Since there is no risk-free food, the possibility of having fewer health problems due to an accumulation of contaminants will increase the more we diversify our diet. In this specific case, there is also the option of consuming organic products.
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