Are Pesticides Making You Puke?

Pesticides might not only serve as a chemical hazard, but as a microbiological threat, too.

March 14, 2013

Scientists find a connection between chemical pesticides and the "winter vomiting disease."

Chemicals used in nonorganic farming are blamed for a lot of health problems. But pesticides and norovirus? It's true, chemical pesticide applications could actually promote the proliferation of germs that cause nasty gastrointestinal symptoms, according to a March 2013 study published in the journal International Journal of Food Microbiology.


Norovirus is an unpleasant ailment unappetizingly named the winter vomiting disease, for obvious reasons—it hits your stomach hard and can cause nausea, cramping, and diarrhea. The bug was in the news a lot over the winter because a particularly nasty strain of the germ caused a global outbreak.

In the study, researchers found that applications of pesticides could be a potential source of noroviruses in fresh foods if farmers dilute pesticide mixtures with contaminated water.

Norovirus is a hardy germ and can survive in water and on surfaces for days. Even alcohol-based hand sanitizer doesn't effectively wipe it out. So when farmers use norovirus-contaminated water to mix their pesticide solutions and apply it to crops, the virus can wind up surviving on fresh fruits and vegetables.

In the study, the scientists combined norovirus-tainted water to mix a pesticide solution and found that even the chemical pesticide solution did not kill off the virus. They concluded that pesticide applications serve as a potential source of noroviruses in fresh food supply chains.

While not usually life threatening, norovirus is highly contagious and the 7 to 10 days of discomfort keeps children out of school and parents home from work.

There are also plenty of other reasons to avoid pesticides. To learn about the damage they inflict, read 9 Crazy Things Pesticides Are Doing to Your Body.

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