Learn How to Avoid the Real Goblins
Oct 02, 2010 12:01PM
Our little ones, masquerading this month as ghosts and goblins, only look scary. What’s really frightening are the toxic chemicals lurking in our families’ food and water.
Pregnant women, infants and children are most vulnerable, because expectant, young and growing bodies are less able to break down and excrete toxins. Halloween screams for a list of valid fears, plus strategies to keep our families safe.
Pesticides: According to Charles Benbrook, Ph.D., chief scientist at the Boulder, Colorado-based Organic Center, more than 1 billion pounds of pesticides are used each year in the United States alone. More than half of the most widely applied pesticides are known endocrine disruptors, compounds that mimic natural hormones and interfere with normal development.
At Beyond Pesticides’ annual meeting last spring, Indianapolis-based neonatologist Dr. Paul Winchester explained how pesticide exposure contributes to birth defects, autism, hyperactivity, diabetes, reduced fertility, obesity and cancer. It’s no wonder that the President’s Cancer Panel Report recommends choosing foods grown or produced without pesticides.
Genetically Modified Foods: An estimated 70 percent of common processed foods lining supermarkets shelves, including Halloween candy, contain at least one genetically modified (GM) ingredient. Yet, genetically modified crops and foods (GMOs) have never been tested for long-term safety.
Since the introduction of GM crops 13 years ago, Benbrook says pesticide use has increased by more than 300 million pounds. Because GM crops are designed to withstand pesticide spray, over time, weeds and pests naturally develop resistance, requiring more and stronger chemicals.
Mercury Rising: Recent U.S. Geological Survey research found mercury contamination in every fish sampled from 291 streams nationwide. More surprising, the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP) found mercury in assorted products containing high fructose corn syrup, likely the result of the sweetener’s manufacturing process, says Renee Dufault, a former U.S. Food and Drug Administration health officer.
David Wallinga, a medical doctor and director of the Food and Health program at IATP, says mercury is a toxic, heavy metal that harms brain development; no exposure level is considered safe.
Plastic Poisons: Like pesticides, plastics can release endocrine disruptors such as bisphenol A (BPA) into food and water. Even more scary, “These compounds are biologically active at extremely low and previously undetected levels,” says University of Missouri biologist Frederick vom Saal.
Food Dyes: The Center for Science in the Public Interest reports that common food dyes can pose unnecessary risks for cancer, hyperactivity and allergies. Each year, approximately 15 million pounds of synthetic food dyes are added to foods that are heavily marketed to children.
It’s frightening to think of our children as guinea pigs for profit, isn’t it? Here’s how to keep family members safe:
Buy Organic: Researchers at Washington State University found that switching children from a conventional to an organic diet resulted in a dramatic drop in pesticide exposure. By definition, organic foods cannot contain GMOs, synthetic pesticides, artificial hormones or antibiotics. Sandra Steingraber, Ph.D., a prominent ecologist and author of Living Downstream, says, “Organic food is really a bargain, when you consider the full cost to our children’s health and their environment.”
Read Labels: Most nonorganic corn, soy, canola and sugar (processed from sugar beets, not cane) are genetically engineered, although an identifying label is not required. Common GMO ingredients include soy lecithin, corn starch and high fructose corn syrup. “Good” food advocates suggest that we call or write our favorite food manufacturers and tell them we won’t buy their products if they use GMO ingredients or artificial colors.
Avoid Plastics: Always heat food in glass, lead-free ceramic, stainless steel or other non-reactive metal cookware (excludes most nonstick brands).
Avoid House and Garden Chemicals: Banish bug sprays and lawn and garden chemicals in favor of more natural products. Check with Beyond Pesticides for suggested alternatives, at BeyondPesticides.org.
Pass this Article on to Friends: Protect the neighborhood and beyond.
Petition Legislators: Ask representatives to support H.R. 5820, the Toxic Chemicals Safety Act, at ewg.org/actioncenter.