Quiz: Toxins in the Environment

Many of our healthiest foods—fruits and vegetables—contain herbicide and pesticide residues that accumulate in our bodies.
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Many of our healthiest foods—fruits and vegetables—contain herbicide and pesticide residues that accumulate in our bodies.

Levels are rising, according to a study at the University of California, San Diego. Such toxins disrupt hormones and damage health. Eating organic foods is the best way to avoid them, but since this isn’t always possible, it helps to know where they lurk and how to minimize exposure. This Earth Day, test your toxin savvy and find greener alternatives with our quiz.

1. Chemical pesticides and herbicides have been linked to increased risk of which conditions?

a) Cancer

b) Diabetes

c) Neurological problems

d) Infertility

e) All the above

2. Eating a diet of organic foods can dramatically reduce levels of pesticides and herbicides in the human body:

a) In a few days

b) In a few weeks

c) In a few months

3. Non-GMO foods never contain pesticides or herbicides.

a) True

b) False

4. Baking soda can remove pesticides from produce.

a) True

b) False

5. Agricultural chemicals have been found in the blood and/or urine of how many Americans?

a) More than 50%

b) More than 65%

c) More than 80%

d) More than 90%

6. Which nonorganic crops often contain glyphosate residues?

a) Corn

b) Soy

c) Wheat

d) Corn and soy

e) All the above

7. In fruits and vegetables that are not certified organic, which of these has the lowest pesticide levels?

a) Strawberries

b) Spinach

c) Broccoli

d) Onions

Get Your Toxin Levels Tested

The nonprofit Detox Project tests foods for residues of the most widely used weed killer, glyphosate, and certifies passing foods as “Glyphosate Residue Free.” For consumers, the organization offers tests of hair or urine samples to check personal toxin levels. For more info, visit detoxproject.org.

Earth Day Toxin Savvy Answers

1. e) Studies have linked chemicals to all of these conditions, including memory loss, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases, and developmental disorders in children.

2. a) Studies of children have found toxin levels dropping to undetectable levels within days of switching from conventional foods to a 100% organic diet. Similar tests have not been done in adults.

3. b) False. “Non-GMO” simply means that a food has not been genetically engineered, but it doesn’t prevent the use of agricultural chemicals. Only certified organic foods must be grown without highly toxic chemicals.

4. a) Researchers at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst tested apples with allowable amounts of pesticides and found that soaking them in water with baking soda removed more pesticides from the skin than tap water alone or a bleach rinse. However, some pesticides penetrated the apples and could not be removed.

5. d) Research at the University of California, San Francisco, and data compiled by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found detectable levels of pesticides and the herbicide glyphosate in the blood and urine of more than 90% of Americans tested.

6. e) Glyphosate is sprayed on most nonorganic corn and soy to kill weeds as the plants grow. In wet North American climates, the chemical is also sprayed on wheat and other grains about two weeks before harvest to dry the crop and speed up the harvesting process.

7. d) From best to worst: Onions have the lowest levels, followed by broccoli, spinach, and strawberries. For a ranking of pesticide levels of 48 popular fruits and vegetables, get the Shoppers Guide to Pesticides in Produce at ewg.org.

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