We are all familiar with the fact that chemicals, particularly pesticides and herbicides, have negative side effects. The United States and international government agencies have acknowledged that different pesticides have been linked to a variety of health problems including hormonal disruption, skin, eye and lung irritation, birth defects, weight gain, nervous system toxicity and cancer. Many times, the negative effects of pesticides can take a long time to show, and by the time symptoms are clear, a lot of damage may have already been done.

People can be exposed to pesticides in three ways — inhalation, absorption through the skin or oral exposure in the mouth or digestive tract. Typical sources of pesticide exposure include food, home and personal use items, drinking water and exposure from an occupation.

Did you realize that polar bears experience osteoporosis and hypothyroidism from the chemicals they ingest? If polar bears are experiencing adverse health conditions from pesticides and herbicides, you can only imagine the damage pesticides inflict upon us. Pesticides are just one of the many sources of xenoestrogens. Xenoestrogens are a type of obesogen, which is an environmental, man-made chemical that has a chemical structure similar to estrogen that accumulates in fatty human tissue. These chemicals cause damage to tissue, which disrupts insulin sensitivity and glucose balance, accelerates aging, cause infertility, creates brain dysfunction and disrupts satiety so you never feel full or satisfied when you eat, thereby promoting fat accumulation and obesity.

How does that translate into what we buy at the grocery store? Do you know which fruits and veggies are most important to buy organic to avoid pesticide/insecticide overload? The Environmental Working Group (EWG) created a Shopper’s Guide that will help you determine which fruits and veggies have the most pesticide residues and which fruits and vegetables are best to buy organic.

Shop smarter. You can lower your pesticide intake substantially by avoiding contaminated fruits and vegetables and eating the least contaminated produce.

Since GMO sweet corn is not labeled in the U.S. stores, EWG advises those who have concerns about GMOs to buy organic sweet corn. In addition, avoid farmed salmon and catfish to avoid the greatest source of exposure to PCBs, PBDEs and other chlorinated pesticides. Other common dietary sources with lower levels of PCBs and dioxins that should be avoided include dairy products and synthetic fish oils.

More tips you can use

Research has detected the presence of paraben esters in 99 percent of breast cancer tissues sampled. Deodorants and antiperspirants are two primary sources of parabens, but the fact that even those who reportedly never used them still had parabens in their breast tissue indicates that these chemicals will accumulate in breast tissue. It’s important to recognize that whatever you spread on your skin can be absorbed into your body and potentially cause serious damage over time. Instead, opt for natural skin-care products that are chemical-free.

What type of cookware do you use? Did you know that Teflon (PFOA) is an hormone-disruptor and carcinogen? It might be time to go shopping and replace your Teflon with stainless steel cookware. Here’s a simple test that will tell what type of stainless steel cookware to purchase. Take a magnet with you when you go shopping. The magnet should stick to the cookware indicating that the cookware has a low nickel content and will not leach nickel into the food. Nickel can be more toxic than mercury. Less expensive stainless contains metals that will leach into anything you cook in the cookware.

Ahwatukee Foothills resident Paula Owens, M.S., is the author of two books, “The Power of 4” and “Fat Loss Revolution.” She is a nutritionist and fitness expert with more than 25 years of experience, and creator of “21 Days to a Leaner, Healthier You,” an online exercise and fat-loss program. Visit Paula at www.PaulaOwens.com.

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