PROTECTING CHILDEN FROM
HARMFUL FOOD AND WATER
Everyone has to eat and drink. It is essential to staying alive. In fact, a good meal is one of our greatest pleasures.
Unfortunately, a lot of toxic substances sneak into children's bodies hidden in food and water. Examples include pesticides,
harmful bacteria, industrial discharges, and agricultural runoff. These substances are present at levels that can be harmful to our
children in a number of ways.
Some of these substances, like the food additives monosodium glutamate (MSG) and aspartame, have been associated with
nerve damage, cancer, and developmental problems. Some types of seafood, including predatory fish like swordfish, and filter
and bottom feeders like shellfish and halibut, accumulate pollutants to a degree which can cause kidney damage, mental
impairment, and cancer. In general, the pesticides which can be found on food or in drinking water cause the same types of
health problems that the pesticides on your lawn do.
There have also been cases of drinking water, particularly well water, being contaminated with asbestos, radon, lead, and
various solvents. These water pollutants can cause damage to the brain, nervous system, kidneys, and liver and can cause a
number of types of cancer.
Children's bodies can be seriously affected from even low levels of toxics in food and water. Of course, we still have to eat and
drink. In fact, it would be very damaging to deprive a kid of all the nutrition in fruits and vegetables or to not give them enough
to drink. Luckily, you don't have to make a choice between nutrition and toxics. There are lots of ways to get good, clean food
Did You Know?
- Sixteen different pesticide residues were found in eight brand name baby foods. These pesticides have been implicated in
cancer and nerve disorders.
- The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) only inspects nine pounds out of every one million pounds of fish.
- Nitrite, a preservative found in approximately 7% of our food, reacts with chemicals in food to make nitrosamine, one of the
most potent known carcinogens.
- An average one-year-old's top ten favorite foods are apple juice, grape juice, oats, bananas, milk, apples, orange juice,
pears, wheat, and peaches. On average, 50% of these foods will have pesticide residues.
- Infants consume 15 times the apple juice, 12 times the pears, and eight times the carrots that adults do per unit of body
What You Can Do
- Eat organic foods.
- Shop at organic grocery stores or local organic co-ops. Some large organic chains include Whole Foods, Wild Oats,
Nature's Northwest, Fresh Fields, and Bread and Circus. Also, conventional stores are increasingly carrying organic products.
If your store doesn't carry organic products, let them know that you want them to.
- Join Community Supported Agriculture, or similar groups which will supply you with organic produce in exchange for buying
a share of their farm.
- Take part in an organic community garden in your neighborhood.
- Buy seasonal, local produce, such as can be found at farmer's markets and local co-ops.
- Even better, grow your own food using organic sustainable techniques.
- Beware of perfect looking produce. It often requires the use of pesticides to make something look so esthetically pleasing.
- Thoroughly wash and peel your produce, especially if it is waxed and dyed. Discard outer leaves of lettuce. This reduces but
does not completely remove pesticides.
- Don't pick wild berries from public roads where pesticides are often sprayed.
- Eat foods which are low in fat and trim the fat from meat, fish, and poultry - many toxics are stored in fat cells.
- Beware of meat low down in the food chain and meat from filter feeders, i.e. swordfish and shark or oysters and mussels -
toxics accumulate in these organisms.
Perhaps most frightening to many parents is the thought that pesticides might be in their infant's food. Unfortunately, many baby
foods do contain pesticides. There are lots of safe alternatives though.
What You Can Do
- Buy organic baby foods. Earth's Best baby food is available in many large grocery store chains. Organic grocery stores and
co-ops usually have a couple of different options, including Organic Baby.
- Make your own baby food using organic produce. Remember to take into account the quality of your water source.
- Some manufacturers such as H. J. Heinz will no longer use produce with residues from chemicals not yet reviewed for their
safety by the EPA.
- Write your baby food company and ask them to use organic produce.
- Tell your grocer you want them to carry organic baby foods.
Did You Know?
- The EPA estimates that 10% of our community drinking water contains pesticides.
- In 1994 and 1995, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, 45 million Americans drank water from systems that
fell short of Safe Drinking Water Act standards.
What You Can Do
Find Out What's In Your Water
- Ask your public water distributor. Most of us get our water from a public distributor. They are required by law to give
you information on what is in your drinking water. In fact, beginning in 1999, they will be required to send out this information
to everyone living in their water district.
- Ask the Environmental Protection Agency or your local public health department. Many people use well water. If
you do, you may be able to get information on what is in your water from either the EPA or a local public health office.
- Get it tested yourself. If you still can't get the information you need, hire someone to do a water test for you. You need
different types of tests for different types of water pollution. One convenient option is to get your water tested by mail.
If Your Water Isn't Up to Your Standards
- Use filtration systems. More economical long-term than bottled water, using filtering systems guarantees a level of
control over what you are drinking that the other options do not. There are many different types of filters in a wide price range.
Each type of filtration device has a different specialty. Depending on the results of your water test, use one of the following:
* Activated Carbon System - removes organic chemicals, and chlorine. It also makes water taste better. It doesn't help
with lead or nitrate.
* Distillation System - good at removing heavy metals, but is bad at removing small organic compounds.
* Reverse Osmosis System - removes metals, fluoride, nitrates, radium, and lead, but not all organics.
* Hybrid System - uses a combination of the above techniques for more comprehensive filtration.
- Consider drinking bottled water. Unfortunately, there are no regulations on bottled water so you don't really know what
you are drinking. Some companies are really just using tap water. For a guide to the best and worst brands, begin with
Consumer Reports (January 1987) or contact the National Sanitation Foundation.
- Protect your watershed. Fortunately, you are already doing this by using this primer. By using less toxic alternatives you
are keeping toxics from entering our groundwater. Household toxics which are thrown in the garbage will often leak out of
landfills when it rains. Most everything we use ends up in the water system one way or another. Then, the polluted water makes
its way back into our houses again. Protect your kids and other people's kids too by not using pesticides, toxic cleaners, etc.
Tell other people about how their behavior affects the quality of water entering your house.
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Children's Health Environmental Coalition
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