IS PRODUCE MAKING
YOUR CHILDREN SICK?
Pesticides have been a reality in our environment since the 1950's. They are not only found and used on farms, but are also found in our water supply, in our gardens, and around our homes and schools. The long-term effects of continued exposure to many of the pesticides and chemicals still in use today has not been specifically determined to date, although many have already been found to be carcinogenic. Other chemicals or pesticides are considered to be harmful neuro-toxins, which can be particularly detrimental to developing children and infants, and other shave been found to interfere with the endocrine system and hormonal development of humans.
Despite the fact that chemicals like DDT were outlawed in the United States in 1972, our children still continue to be at-risk. Traces of DDT are still found on our produce because the U.S. imports fruits and vegetables from other countries do not have legal restrictions on the useof DDT. Furthermore, since 1972, 620 chemicals that are on the market today have been under review and study for safety. To date, only 19 or 3% of these pesticides have been evaluated for safety, and the deadline to assess all 620 was 1997. Even if a toxic pesticide is discovered in the group eventually, you and our children continue to be exposed and the long-term damage has already been done. A more alarming fact is that 40 pesticides that are still currently being used have been identified as chemicals that cause cancer, birth defects, and genetic disorders. The federal government is permitting these pesticides to remain on the market since they were "grandfathered in" prior to the mandate in 1972. One such commonly used fungicide is "Captan." Another cause for concern is the fact that the chemical companies themselves are responsible for the safety testing. With chemical sales being a multi-million dollar business, one must wonder how motivated the companies are to declare a pesticide or chemical as unsafe.
While pesticides initially were viewed as a benefit to us all, primarily from an economic perspective, they are now clearly identified as a detriment to our health, particularly the health of children and infants. Pesticide usage on food/produce has been primarily seen as an economic benefit by our government. It was not until 1996, with the birth of "The Food Quality Protection Act (FQPA)" that the primary consideration became health, and the law specifically required that studies be conducted to take into account the risks of various chemicals on food to infants and children. However, and unfortunately, to date, as noted by the Children's Health Environment Committee in 2002, little significant change has been measured on minimizing children's exposure to pesticides in food, water,and the air.
Children continue to be and are the most vulnerable to toxic chemicals and pesticides. Their body size/weight to amount of pesticide ingestion ratiois much greater than an adults. Children also usually only eat certain types of foods, fruits and vegetables, including produce that has the highest amounts of pesticide residues. According to the Environmental Working Group (EWG) in 2000, the produce that has the highest amount of pesticide residues includes apples, peaches, pears, strawberries, and green beans. These latter items are ones that are typically favored by children. Other highly contaminated produce includes bell peppers,spinach, U.S. grown cherries, Mexican-grown cantaloupes, celery, apricots,cucumbers, and Chilean grapes. Children and infants also ingest more water than adults, per the body weight/ingestion ratio, which exposes them to even higher doses and mixtures of pesticides.
The EWG further reported that significant developmental interference could occur for the developing child from neuro-toxins. One could surmise and it has been speculated that interference with brain development has become the reason for the dramatic increase in autism (1 in 6 children getting such a diagnosis over the past decade), and the rise of Attention Deficit Disorder and learning problems, which are associated with neurological processing deficits as well. Asthma and respiratory problems amongst children are also on the rise at an alarming rate (400% increase over the past 10 years). The EWG further stated early childhood high exposure top esticides could result in cancer by age 10. Cancer is now the second leading cause of death in children today.
We need more information about the chemicals used in our environment and we need to put a stop to the rampant use of pesticides. Pests have become resistant to our pesticides over the past 50 years, which has required chemical companies to increase the various pesticides' strength to continue to get the desired effect and economic benefits. So besides the chemicals already being hazardous to our health, we are now getting bombarded by stronger concentrations of the same hazardous pesticides.
Do not assume that if it is in the grocery store, it must be safe. Even the pesticides deemed "safe" by the government might, in reality, not be. The majority of studies conducted to date on pesticide safety have been mostly conducted with male adult subjects. There is not any studies on children, infants, and women. We cannot ignore studying the effects of pesticides on these high-risk groups. Our children are at stake. For your information, pesticide traces have been found in the placent as of pregnant women, which passes onto the developing fetuses. Since 95% ofbrain development occurs between gestation and 2 years old , we should be concerned given the rise of childhood illnesses, developmental disorders,learning and behavior problems. Another reason why the current studies might be flawed is because only effects from one pesticide in isolation is studied, not effects from a combination or multiple pesticide exposure,which is typically what occurs, particularly with children, as noted above.
As parents this is what you can do to protect you and your loved ones. Again, never believe that just because it is on the shelf at the store, itis okay to eat. Buy certified organic foods, and make sure you wash even organic produce since it could be contaminated as well from "drift problems", which can occur when non-organic farms spray pesticides, and from handling, and fertilizers used in soil. Many fertilizers are petroleum-based or oil, just like pesticides are, and cannot be removed with water alone. If you need to buy conventional produce, wash all fresh food, fruits and vegetables thoroughly. Many chemicals or pesticides are water insoluble. Therefore, you need to use a product that is designed to dissolve, lift off, and wash away surface pesticide residues. Peel heavily waxed or suspected contaminated produce. Some people and children might be allergic to waxes (ie. beeswax), and sometimes pesticides are mixed in the wax as well.
Parents further should find out if pesticides are being used in or near your children's school. You have the legal "right to know" what is being used and what your children are being exposed to. Use organic gardening and lawn-care methods to protect children. A filter should be used when using tap water for drinking, cooking, and food preparation. You should also learn about the potential sources of toxins in your homes. Many household traditional cleaners with the danger, caution, and warning labels contain highly toxic chemicals. The manufacturers have the right not to disclose the ingredients in these products to you since they are protected by "trade secret" laws. This is an outrage given the potential deleterious consequences for you and your children. Replace those traditional cleaners with natural household cleaners.
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