Pesticides are the only toxic substances released intentionally into our environment to kill living things. This includes substances that kill weeds (herbicides), insects (insecticides), fungus (fungicides), rodents (rodenticides), and others.

The use of toxic pesticides to manage pest problems has become a common practice around the world. Pesticides are used almost everywhere — not only in agricultural fields, but also in homes, parks, schools, buildings, forests, and roads. It is difficult to find somewhere where pesticides aren’t used — from the can of bug spray under the kitchen sink to the airplane crop dusting acres of farmland, our world is filled with pesticides. In addition, pesticides can be found in the air we breathe, the food we eat, and the water we drink.

Pesticides have been linked to a wide range of human health hazards, ranging from short-term impacts such as headaches and nausea to chronic impacts like cancer, reproductive harm, and endocrine disruption.

Acute dangers – such as nerve, skin, and eye irritation and damage, headaches, dizziness, nausea, fatigue, and systemic poisoning – can sometimes be dramatic, and even occasionally fatal.

Chronic health effects may occur years after even minimal exposure to pesticides in the environment, or result from the pesticide residues which we ingest through our food and water. A July 2007 study conducted by researchers at the Public Health Institute, the California Department of Health Services, and the UC Berkeley School of Public Health found a sixfold increase in risk factor for autism spectrum disorders (ASD) for children of women who were exposed to organochlorine pesticides.

Bisphenol A worries health practitioners because of its possible link to serious health problems. BPA is an industrial compound, but food manufacturers use BPA to protect food from metal corrosion and bacteria. BPA may affect neural development in fetuses. BPA is also linked to endocrine disorders, heart disease and cancer. Canned foods have high amounts of BPA that some study groups find unacceptable.

One group of scientists discovered levels of BPAs in canned foods that were 200 times the level proclaimed by the U.S. government as safe. Research also shows that BPA leaches from the liner into the food of canned goods. In a study’s random sampling of 50 cans from the U.S. and Canada, researchers found BPA in 46 of the 50 food products. The highest level was found in a can of green beans.

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You need not worry about the sodium content of fresh vegetables, but canned vegetables pose a sodium risk if you are on a low-salt diet for health reasons. Check the ingredients of canned vegetables because they carry high levels of sodium. Fortunately, food manufacturers, in response to consumer awareness about sodium, have responded with reduced-sodium varieties. Unfortunately, not all canned vegetable products have low-sodium versions that you can find easily in stores.

One state health agency concerned about the amount of sodium in commercial food took a look at canned tomatoes to illustrate the difference. The agency found that regular canned tomatoes had 15 times as much sodium as reduced-sodium canned tomatoes. Still, you can salvage your cans of vegetables by rinsing the food from the can first in water before putting the veggies in the pot, oven, pan or microwave. That will remove some of the salt content.

Sulfites are sulfur-based compounds added to food as preservatives. They are found in canned vegetables. About one out of 100 people is sensitive to sulfites, and reactions can be deadly. Sensitivity varies from person to person, but the reaction manifests itself in respiratory problems. Signs of a bad reaction develop in just 15 minutes to a half-hour after eating foods with sulfites.They take the form of shortness of breath or wheezing.

Food labels on canned vegetables may not say “sulfites” per se, but look for any of these ingredients which have sulfites in them: sulfur dioxide, potassium bisulfite, potassium metabisulfite or sodium sulfite.

Although these are three strong reasons to avoid canned vegetables, vegetables in general are the right choice for healthy eating. The perspective recommended by nutritionists is easy to live by: choose fresh or frozen vegetables first and canned vegetables second. A university study found that fiber and key vitamins in vegetables that underwent the canning process were not compromised as a result of canning. Just limit your use of canned vegetables if you are concerned about BPA, and look for reduced-sodium choices too.