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How To Get Pesticides Out Of Your Life Completely Graphic © healthpowerboost.com. Photo © AdobeStock 11872515 (under license)
Introduction: What You Do To The Web Of Life, You Do To Yourself
Through my years of research I have concluded that synthetic pesticides are “death in a bottle” and that we would be far better off overall if they did not even exist. While some may view them as a “necessary evil”, I simply don’t agree: Can it be grown organically? Yes; therefore it should be!
My viewpoint is simple and logical: You don’t improve the world by spraying death on things. You are putting poisons into the environment that you yourself live in – and so you quite literally end up doing it to yourself – as well as to any other living organism that is unfortunate enough to be in the way. It’s just not very smart, really.
Pesticides are one of the great tragedies of the modern era with millions of people having been killed by them and billions more affected, in addition to great harm to innumerable other life forms.
Remember the words of the wise old Native American Chief Seattle: “What you do to the web of life, you do to yourself.” By the time you’ve finished this article, I’m sure you’ll agree with him!
I am quite convinced that the companies that create this stuff simply do not care – especially if the consequences of pesticide use happen far away. They have various convenient justifications for their concoctions and it sometimes seems as though they view profit as more important than life itself. They will do whatever they can to keep their products legal and sell as much of them as possible. If one chemical gets banned, they have another one waiting in the wings.
The Cocktail Effect
One of the great unsolved problems with pesticides is that the “cocktail effect” has never been evaluated. Toxicity tests are typically short term and are run on isolated chemicals. A “safe dose” of that one chemical is determined and a maximum limit of exposure placed. However, what if you were to ingest a “safe dose” of 20 or even 50 toxic substances? And what if these substances have compound effects?
The truth is that we simply don’t know the cocktail effects – but we do know that we are ingesting the cocktail: Your food and tap water may well have dozens of pesticide residues in it – that’s not an exaggeration. More on that shortly.
Let’s Take Action!
This tutorial is for those who have simply want to remove these toxins from their lives. For those who are “on the fence” about pesticides’ harmful effects – why risk it? There are many chemicals that have already been banned due to their harmful effects; however the full extent of the damage is quite often only discovered after many years of use. Generally speaking, it takes significant harm done before something is banned – so why be one of the guinea pigs if you can avoid it? Why wait until a chemical is banned before deciding that it was a bad idea to have used it? Why not simply avoid it now, take peace of mind and thank yourself later? Counting on “the powers that be” to protect us has already proven disastrous for so many.
Removing this stuff from your life completely will take some effort, thought and investment: Chemicals can enter your body via food, water, air and skin contact. So as you will shortly see, it is a little more complex than simply “eat organic”. However the benefits of taking determined action are numerous. This is a detailed tutorial and I have put in as much information as I can think of. Here’s my full list of steps you can take to reduce and hopefully eliminate toxic chemical pesticides from your life:
STEP 1. Eat Organic (And Know Your Organic Standards)
Non-organic “ordinary” produce is typically sprayed with pesticides. Some of these residues remain on the surface of the plant and some are absorbed within it. It’s not just fruit and veggies: Animals may graze on grass or eat crops that were sprayed, thus absorbing some of the chemicals from those crops into their bodies.
It has been demonstrated by scientific study that after switching to eating organic produce, pesticide levels in the human body drop significantly within a few weeks. So this switch is a good first step.
Organic produce is of course typically more expensive – and this is a limiting factor for many. However there are some steps you can take:
a) Grow some of your own food. Then you really have control and complete confidence over what goes in the soil!
b) Buy organic staples (rice, oats, lentils etc) in bulk to cut down on cost.
c) Think long term. In the end, cheap become expensive: Bear in mind that the cost of becoming unwell might be sky high compared to the “expense” of organic produce – and see it as an investment in your health.
d) If you can only afford some organic food but not all, start with replacing the “dirty dozen”. These are foods that have been found to have the highest levels of pesticide residues: Strawberries, Celery, Spinach, Pears, Kale, Nectarines, Apples, Cherries, Grapes, Peaches, Tomatoes, Potatoes. Raisins are another “problem food” – with 99% of almost 700 test samples being found to contain at least two pesticides. 
e) Wash all produce carefully (organic or not), peel non-organic produce (highest pesticide concentrations in the peel) and discard the “pesticide pool” area – the hollow at the top of fruit such as apples, which would logically contain the highest proportion of residues.
f) Know where your food came from and how it was certified. Be aware that some “organic” produce (especially imported from China) may in fact not be organic. Full report here. This is a complex subject. Your best best is to learn about the various organic standards and their certification and do some research on your food in order to ascertain its quality. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Scrutiny is what keeps the standards high.
g) Note that coffee may be a source of pesticides. Full report here: https://herbshealthhappiness.com/are-pesticide-residues-in-coffee-harming-you/
STEP 2. Drink Pure Water
If you are drinking water straight from the tap, then brace yourself for the troubling fact that you are very likely drinking traces of a cocktail of toxic chemicals; including pesticides (typically via “run off” or drift from spraying). The USDA Pesticide Data Program reported that in 2012 Atrazine (a known carcinogen) was present in 87.9% of “finished water” in the USA!  2,4-D was found in 85.3% of samples taken! A further 57 pesticides were found with frequency ranging from presence in 0.4% to 89.2% of samples taken. That’s extremely alarming. The full database of the USDA Pesticide Data Program reports can be found here.
In addition to pesticides, tap water is known to be contaminated with pharmaceuticals. Pharmaceuticals end up being “recycled” into the water supply – can you guess how this happens? I’m trying not to ruin your day here, I promise. I don’t want to drink even a single molecule of random medications that someone else has peed out, thank you! I wasn’t prescribed that, and it’s in my water! Pharmaceuticals also enter soil and water via livestock and pets that were treated with the drugs. While the quantities are very small traces, this is a very widespread occurrence and trace amounts of numerous pharmaceuticals are likely to be present in your water.
Aside from pesticides and recycled pharms, there are many good reasons to filter tap water – including fluoride, chlorine and whatever other gunk finds its way through the maze of pipes to your home. Lead pipes have been phased out in most places now but even so, metallic pipes of all kinds are never absolutely pure metals – and may impart various impurities into the water. See my full report on how to test for and remove toxins from your home.
Bear in mind also that chemicals can be absorbed via the skin from bath and shower water.
The good news of course is that you can filter your water and a good quality filter will remove the vast majority of these chemicals.
Carbon block and reverse osmosis water filtration systems are widely regarded as the most effective way to remove chemicals from your tap water.
One of the best drinking water filters I have found is the Berkey (carbon block). I have two of the “Big Berkey” at home and have been using them for years. The list of chemicals that is removed by the Berkey is impressive – not to mention parasites and other nasties that it takes care of as well.
If you buy / use one of these filters, care must be taken to set it up properly (fitting the filter elements securely so that only the purified water drips through to the lower chamber). It’s also advisable to test your water “before and after” so that you have confidence that your filter (whichever brand you end up using) is doing what it is supposed to do. Here’s a popular drinking water testing kit that got great reviews.
A further source of pure water is of course natural mineral water, though this is of course more expensive and resource-intensive. For greater purity choose something in a glass bottle as opposed to plastic.
STEP 3. Remove Toxic Chemicals From your Home And Garden Environment
You probably have various pesticides in your home right now. Most people will have Raid and other insect sprays lurking in the cupboard under the sink; possibly some DEET kicking around… but you might also have evil, decaying, ancient bottles of death that have been at the back of your garden shed since 1982. Ask me how I know! Yes, I bought a home and found rusty old poison containers hidden in the back of the shed. Nice gift. Why is it par for the course for homeowners to leave these kinds of “presents” for someone else to deal with? Not cool.
Check your home thoroughly and get rid of offending items, taking full precautions and care. Note that you can’t just dispose of toxic chemicals by dumping them in the trash. You should take them to your local waste disposal facility and have them disposed of correctly. If there are containers on the property that have leaked or seem like they might leak / burst when you try to move them, then you are into a remediation scenario and should seek professional advice. You might even have stuff laying around that is now banned. Don’t take risks with this stuff: Some old-school poisons such as Aldicarb can be extremely dangerous and potentially even fatal by skin contact. Please do not just dump it! And if a container’s label has faded / fallen off and you can’t tell what’s in it, don’t open it and take a sniff to find out!! Call a waste disposal expert and get some advice / professional removal.
STEP 4. Have The Air In Your Home + Soil Around / Under Your Home Tested For Chlordane, Heptachlor, Aldrin, Dieldrin And Other Persistent Insecticides
Now this one is a real rabbit hole. It’s bad news, actually – and most people don’t know. You might well have moved into a home that was already treated with poisons that are now banned, yet still remain… in, around and under your home. Welcome to the world of “forever chemicals”.
Chlordane is an insecticide that was used widely as a termite treatment in the 20th century, before being banned in 1988 due to its severe toxic and environmentally damaging effects. However, due to the extreme persistence (non-biodegradability) of chlordane, it’s been found in soils well over 20 years after last being used. It bioaccumulates in mammals, birds, fish and human beings. Traces of chlordane and heptachlor were still being detected in some produce grown in the USA in the mid 2010’s and very likely will continue to do so. The USDA Pesticide Research Results Database includes chlordane data as well as a huge list of other pesticides.
It’s estimated that everyone in the USA has had some exposure to chlordane, however people whose homes were treated with it are thought to have had the greatest exposure. Over 50 million people in the USA are estimated have lived in properties that were treated with chlordane – and a “soil drench” procedure was often utilized on new properties before the foundation was poured, with 100 gallons being used per 1000 square feet of home! Chlordane was also often used on exterior timbers as a termite preventative and sometimes even inside the home to get rid of ants or roaches.
Full report on chlordane contamination of homes here.
Chlordane is just one of a group of chemicals known as persistent organic pollutants; also nicknamed “forever chemicals” because of their resistance to degradation. A full list of the worst persistent chemicals can be found here https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Persistent_organic_pollutant.
Action Steps: Sorry for the bad news – but what you don’t know can harm you. It’s not so great to learn that you may well have been exposed to these chemicals without knowing. If you have unexplained illness, or are (rightly) concerned to make sure you are not living unwittingly in unhealthy conditions that might harm you later, there are some beneficial steps you can take.
a) Get your home / soil tested. Go to your favorite search engine and type in “home chlordane test”, “heptachlor testing”, “persistent organic pollutant home testing” and so on. You’ll see several options. One company I found – https://www.alsglobal.eu/ – has a full range of tests available for persistent organic pollutants (EU based). I’d imagine that testing for “everything” could get expensive, but it seems potentially worthwhile. If I had the money to spare, I would absolutely definitely get any home I lived in tested for every toxin possible! Having experienced hellish neurological symptoms during one period of my life, that seem to have been connected to a California property I was living at (that certainly did have termites and was built before 1988), I would not wish that experience on anyone. Sure enough, I got sick when I was working in the crawl space under the house… it’s not entirely illogical to guess that I may have been poisoned. You don’t want this.
Typically, indoor air is tested because the chemical continues to evaporate throughout the years from building materials and from the soil under homes. You can also get soil testing. If your home is in a termite-prone area, for example the Southern or Western USA, and the home was built before 1988, consider it somewhat likely that you will get a positive test – especially if it is known that the house was treated for termites during that period. You may be able to contact local companies and inquire about records from their history of operations.
b) For an inexpensive test that will certainly yield some interesting results, you could purchase a TVOC (total volatile organic compounds) test meter. While these will typically not tell you exactly which VOCs you are being subjected to (with the exception of Formaldehyde), they will tell you the overall quantity of these substances in the air. This can be very valuable: For example you can go from room to room and find out which rooms have the highest levels. You might even locate a source of formaldehyde off-gassing or the location of a chemical spillage. If you find one location has significantly elevated levels of TVOCs, see if you can locate the source. I very recently bought a TVOC meter on Aliexpress similar to the one linked above. You can also use these to test the efficacy of air purifiers!
c) Remediation: To remediate a property there are various correction procedures that can be undertaken. I found a good, thoroughly detailed article on this here: https://chem-tox.com/chlordane/repair.htm
d) A further valuable step is air purification that contains a VOC-phase filter – to remove gaseous pollutants. More on that in section 6 below.
e) Open windows and get some fresh air in. One of the great problems with modern “sealed” homes is that pollutants of all kinds build up. We gained energy efficiency, but we paid a heavy price in toxic air.
f) Have your next home tested before you purchase it / rent it! Yes, it’s yet another bill but think of this this way; that $150 you spent on the testing might enable you to “dodge a bullet”. A test kit is a lot cheaper than cancer. This is real. Many homes are contaminated with persistent organic pollutants. Don’t risk your health when you can take a few simple steps to protect your family’s health.
STEP 5. Learn And Use Alternate / Natural Methods To Get Rid Of Pests
The big problem with using synthetic chemicals of any kind to get rid of pests in and around your home is that you are going to be exposed to those chemicals. That’s not good.
In general, using poisons to get rid of pests comes with a raft of risks – including the possibility of endangering your children by simply having those dangerous chemicals in the home. However there are further complications. For example, if you use rat poison, that animal might be eaten by birds of prey or even pets, poisoning them too.
The pesticide makers are not, in general, going to have any incentive to illustrate alternate / natural solutions – and would probably try to talk you out of it if you were to ask them. Fortunately, there are good methods available for getting rid of pretty much any pest without chemicals. In some cases however, the alternative solutions are equally or even more effective!
Using natural pest treatments is a full tutorial in its own right: Here’s a link to one on Herbs, Health and Happiness: How to Make Your Own All-Natural Insecticides and Pesticides.
Physical removal and prevention of entry is the first and most important step. Stop giving them free board and lodging! Pests can’t infest places they physically cannot enter. Thus for example, one can be rid of rats by closing up all possible entrances and removing all possible food sources. You can probably take many of these steps yourself; if not, there are professionals who rodent-proof homes.
Many people also unwittingly attract pests to their property by leaving things that they like out for the taking. For example pet food left outdoors, compost piles and unsecured garbage containers.
When it comes to termites, removal of all wood debris from around and under the house, plus ensuring that the foundations give a clear 6″+ (no timbers touching the soil) will significantly help deter them. Orange oil and borax are two natural treatments that are noted for their effectiveness; borax, while “chemical” in nature, is a mineral salt as opposed to being a synthetic volatile and won’t off-gas into your home.
Spiders and other small insects can be kept out of holes in a property (for example air vents or locations where pipes come in) with 1mm stainless steel mesh. This is very effective and cannot be chewed through by other critters. For windows, regular nylon mesh works well though it is easily damaged. Fix the various entrances properly and keep the critters out, then you dont have to resort to poisons!
Wasps – there used to be a very effective wasp spray that was entirely formulated from essential oils, with no synthetic pesticides – called W.H.Y. Spray (W.H.Y. = Wasp, Hornet, Yellowjacket). I used this on more than one occasion on a wasp / yellowjacket nest with total success. It was very effective. It seems not to be for sale currently. Here’s the MSDS for WHY Spray, listing the ingredients. It was claimed that the clove EO had a disorienting / stunning effect on them and the various essential oils finished them off. You could probably make up your own formulation using just the clove, lemongrass and isopropyl alcohol; though you would need some kind of a sprayer with a long boom in order to get it into the nest without getting close. Clove EO is intense and has been reported to cause seizures in certain individuals. I’d certainly advise not to breathe too much of it.
If you have a wasp nest that’s inside a wall or wall cavity it’s advised to get the pros in as these can be very dangerous to attempt to deal with. For hornets, I would absolutely get professional assistance because they can be super dangerous too. WHY Spray / an equivalent ought to work – but finding a company that uses it might prove challenging. They will most likely use synthetic pesticides – though by all means do some research and try to find a company in your area using natural methods.
If children catch head lice a.k.a. “nits”, the standard course of action is to reach for the permethrin – an insecticide. This is then used to douse the scalp. Oh it works to get rid of the little pests, but you are actually subjecting your kids to poison at the same time. Plus there is of course the added risk of having those poisons in the home where they might be consumed accidentally. An alternate treatment is to employ a special “nit comb” (Amazon link) which if used correctly has been reported to be very successful.
In the case of scabies, you might really be up against it. I went through this in 2017 and I tried every natural treatment under the sun. Nothing worked. Growing desperate (scabies can make you crazy), I ended up doing “chemical warfare” on myself and much of that (permethrin, ivermectin) didn’t work either. I was finally able to get rid of them through repeated use of benzyl benzoate. Don’t get scabies.
STEP 6. Avoid Locations Where You will Encounter Pesticide Drift
Depending on where you live, you may be subjected to “pesticide drift” from either crop spraying or municipal weed control efforts. If you live in or travel through agricultural areas, there’s a significant risk of exposure. When crops are sprayed, if there is even the slightest breeze, then some of the chemicals will drift on the breeze.
In the 2000’s, I drove several times per year down the I-5 in the California central valley from SF to LA. The road goes right through the middle of the agricultural region. The air quality there is noted for being very poor. On one occasion in particular the air smelled terribly of pesticides and sure enough, crops were being sprayed from a plane nearby. We did everything we could to minimize the amount of the sickening-smelling chemicals we were breathing, covering our mouths with fabrics and putting the air on “recirc”, but there’s no doubt about it: We got a hefty dose that day. The only thing I could do was put my foot down and get out of the area asap.
If your home is in a location that is exposed to pesticide drift, then you have a few options:
a) Move. Not exactly convenient, plus it’s sad to think that whoever buys the house will be buying into the same scenario.
b) Learn when the spraying will be done and make sure all windows and doors are closed. I’m sure that if you asked your neighboring farmer to let you know when they will be spraying, so that you can close up the house, they would be amenable to that.
c) Invest in some serious VOC-phase / gas-phase air purification. Look for something that has a significant depth of activated carbon filter stage. Cheapie devices and even some of the more expensive “carbon impregnated HEPA filters” are probably not going to cut it; they will likely have only something like a 1mm thick carbon layer, or “lingerie thick” as one reviewer amusingly reported (and that was on a $599 unit!) The best “high end” air purifier for VOCs (and particulates) is probably the IQAir GC MultiGas. Expensive, but if it is literally “that or pesticide drift” then I wouldn’t hesitate.
Thinking laterally – if you really want to go full-on; check out the HVAC carbon filters from companies such as Phresh. Typically used for (ahem) “indoor gardening” or HVAC systems in conjunction with powerful inline fans, these do actually remove volatiles from the air in a big way. It’s not cheap, not quiet, requires knowledgable installation and possibly code requirements depending on region; but this is an industrial-scale solution designed for high air flow.
I think it would pull VOCs – pesticides, formaldehyde and more – from your air on a level far beyond what the consumer units are likely capable of.
d) Don’t grow produce there – sorry, if there is regular drift it’s probably going to be in the soil.
e) Protest, complain, learn your legal rights and protect yourself in whatever way you can.
f) Before you buy / move into your next home, look at the location. If the place is surrounded by fields, well that seems nice for a moment, but expect that you might be exposed to spray – and that could be a deal breaker. Ask the estate agent / realtor for more information: I once turned down a fantastic country property because it was surrounded by fields and the estate agent agent informed me that spraying did happen – however I would not have known unless I had asked the agent to research it for me, which they diligently did.
STEP 7. Choose Organic Fabrics For Your Clothes, Home Products And Especially Feminine Hygiene Products
Let’s deal with the most alarming-sounding one first: a scientific study from Argentina found that 85% of tampons and feminine hygiene products contained traces of glyphosate herbicide. 
While this might sound shocking, it is less surprising when you learn that cotton is widely agreed to be the most pesticide-intensive crop in the world.
Almost all of the cotton grown in Argentina is genetically modified (typically done in order to make the crop resistant to the herbicide, which can then be dumped by plane on the fields, killing everything else except the crop). This madness is profit-driven; done in order to wipe out weeds and increase crop yields; however the blanketing of crops with pesticides causes environmental damage and, as the aforementioned study has demonstrated, often leaves traces of the pesticide and its metabolites in the cotton, which is then placed in contact with your intimate regions!
Based on the above, we can conclude that cotton bandages, swabs and other medical products made from cotton very likely also contain traces of the pesticides that were used to grow the crop. While these are trace amounts, contamination is contamination and I can’t see how this is desirable – as personal care / medical products are very likely to be in contact with delicate tissues or broken skin, increasing the risk of absorption.
The Enormous Harm Caused By The Non-Organic Cotton Industry
Another huge reason to HUGE buying non-organic cotton: The worst suffering caused by the cotton industry by far is that of the agricultural workers. Their suffering is so widespread and so tragic that once you truly understand, I’m sure you’ll want to switch to organic.
A report from the Environmental Justice Foundation from 2007 called “The Deadly Chemicals In Cotton” reveals shocking information: A high percentage of agricultural workers in the cotton farming industry suffer from acute pesticide poisoning. Reporting in 2007, over 1 million were hospitalized every year.
Most people just don’t know this. They have no idea – and everything looks so nice in the online store. Welcome to the true cost of cheap.
Most of the world’s cotton is produced in poor regions where worker safety standards are lower and sometimes evidently disregarded entirely.
Searching for a more up to date report I found the Pesticide Action Network’s 2018 update on pesticide use in cotton production. Looks like organic cotton is still under 10% of global production – which means that synthetic pesticides are used on over 90%.
Some of the chemicals used at the time of the previous report have now been banned in some countries. For example Aldicarb, an absolutely terrible chemical, has been phased out. Lindane, a major cotton pesticide was banned under the Stockholm Convention in 2009  but is still used in scabies and lice treatments in some countries). However the majority of chemical pesticides are still in use, especially in poorer / developing countries – including some that are acutely toxic to humans. While insecticide use in Australian cotton has been reduced significantly, in Brazil it has grown.
When was the last time you heard about this in the media?
Are There Pesticide Traces In Cotton Clothes?
While the cotton may have been thoroughly washed by the time it reaches you, it likely still contains very small traces of pesticide residues. I found some scientific studies  performing analysis and while the levels of chemicals remaining in fabrics are extremely low, it was interesting to note that both the research on the final quantities remaining in textiles and the legal framework for determining a maximum safe level appear to be far from comprehensive.
I personally don’t think the amount of pesticide remaining in cotton clothing and towels, especially after washing, is going to be very high on the danger list – however of far greater concern is the enormous scale of the health and environmental problems being caused by the pesticide use in the cotton industry. You have a choice and your choice counts. Please consider switching to organic cotton – not only for yourself, but in order to reduce the support for this harmful industry. This is a decision that impacts not only you but the workers in the fields. Everything helps.
Bear in mind also that run-off from pesticide use on crops finds its way into rivers, oceans and that persistent chemicals end up spreading around the world. Remember the old man’s words:
“What you do to the web of life, you do to yourself.”
Now do you see how true that is? And how much work we have to do?
 The Dirty Dozen Foods: 2020 List. https://www.goodhousekeeping.com/health/diet-nutrition/a31916678/dirty-dozen-foods-2020-list/
 Development of a Modified QuEChERS Procedure for the Isolation of Pesticide Residues from Textile Samples, Followed by GC–MS Determination. Separations (2021). https://www.mdpi.com/2297-8739/8/8/106/html
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