Are Pesticides Harmful?

What is a Pesticide?

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Pesticide is a substance or mixture of substances that destroy, repel or reduce pests, bugs, insects, mice, microorganisms (bacteria, viruses) or unwanted plants like weeds or fungi.  They are applied to grow vegetable and fruit in order to protect from insects, diseases, weeds, and mold.

Pesticides are divided into:

  • insecticides, herbicides (chemicals that kill weeds)
  • fungicides (chemicals that kill fungi)


There is no evidence, which has shown that low doses of pesticides and herbicides found in foods increase the risk for cancer or recurrence, but:

  1. Such studies are difficult to run and finish
  2. We might never know the results or outcome of such studies because of difficulty with results and gathering data on such studies

If you are concerned about pesticides, using organically grown foods will reduce your exposure to them.

What can you do to reduce risk in non-organically grown foods or produce?

If for any reason your access to organic food is limited, please try doing the following:


  • Wash, wash, and wash again with warm water.
  • Discard the outermost layer/leaves from leafy vegetables like lettuce, cabbage, kale.
  • Use vegetable washes. Preferably organic, or all natural, free of hazardous chemicals.
  • If produce is labeled pre-washed, reduce risk by washing it yourself before serving anyway.

People and patients who are at risk for low blood counts are at highest risk for food-borne illnesses and should eat washed and cooked foods.

Environmental Working Group has a list of “dirty dozen” foods