Agricultural Pesticides: Q&A (2)


How to Use Pesticides Safely?

As mentioned earlier, pesticides are toxic chemicals by definition. Therefore, users must strictly abide by the safe-use instructions and procedures provided by manufacturers and local competent authorities. Workers who handle pesticides should ideally receive proper training and be well-informed of the hazards associated with the pesticides at their workplace.

Pesticides should always be transported and distributed in their original labelled containers. They should be stored in sheltered and well-ventilated spaces that are not accessible to children or animals. Empty containers should be properly rinsed before disposal and should never be reused for other purposes. Workers who mix or apply pesticides must put on Personal Protective Equipment (PEE) such as gloves, boots, and face masks, to minimize exposure through dermal absorption and inhalation.

What Is Meant by Maximum Residue Levels?

Pesticide residues are the traces of chemicals left in treated crops. The amounts of these residues must be kept as low as possible and safe for consumers. Ideally, residues should always be monitored by relevant competent authorities. For example, in the USA, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is the entity responsible for monitoring and enforcing pesticide residues in raw agricultural commodities.

The Maximum Residue Levels (MRLs) are the highest level of a pesticide residue that is legally tolerated on food products within a given country. Before exporting agricultural products to many countries, importers must comply with the MRLs they have set.

There are several established MRLs databases and food monitoring programs with the aim of safeguarding the consumers’ health. The most renowned database is the Codex Maximum Residue Limits (MRLs) for Pesticides, adopted by the Codex Alimentarius Commission, affiliated to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Health Organization (WHO).

However, according to the WHO, locally grown food may not be properly monitored for residues of pesticides in all countries. Also, families who consume food that is directly brought from the fields might be exposed to higher levels of pesticides.

How to Wash Pesticide Residues from Fresh Produce?

Before answering this question, let me relieve you by saying that residues on food tend to decline greatly as pesticides break over time. Now, let us know how to wash our delicious and nutritious fruits and vegetables.

Always start by washing your hands and cleaning surfaces, cutting boards, and utensils with soapy water before handling fresh produce. Scrubbing tolerable products, such as root vegetables, with a clean brush, and rubbing soft items, such as tomatoes, under running water, are the best methods to remove residues.

Avoid using detergents, or you will just end up adding more chemical residues to your food. Many fruits and vegetables are porous, and would trap these chemicals, making it difficult to rinse them off.

The process is a little more difficult with fruits with waxy or soft skins because pesticides tend to stick better to them. So, it is recommended to peel off waxy fruits like apples to avoid consuming pesticide residues that might be trapped underneath the wax.

In conclusion, I hope I did some justice to pesticides and helped you revisit your view of them as I once did. It only takes some research or valuable advice from an expert to correct a common misconception, does it not?


Popp, J., Pető, K. & Nagy, J. “Pesticide Productivity and Food Security. A Review”. Agron. Sustain. Dev. 33, 243–255 (2013).
International Labour Office. Code of Practice on Safety and Health in Agriculture. ILO. (2010).

Images by Freepik.


About Us

SCIplanet is a bilingual edutainment science magazine published by the Bibliotheca Alexandrina Planetarium Science Center and developed by the Cultural Outreach Publications Unit ...
Continue reading

Contact Us

P.O. Box 138, Chatby 21526, Alexandria, EGYPT
Tel.: +(203) 4839999
Ext.: 1737–1781

Become a member

© 2024 | Bibliotheca Alexandrina