Photo by Matthew Moore.
Sorry to be so melodramatic, but I wanted to catch your attention. I know Thanksgiving is food and football. It happens to be one of my most favorite holidays. I absolutely love sweet potatoes, turkey, cranberry sauce, and all the trimmings. So whats the problem? When I ask for Aunt Millie to pass the sweet potatoes, she might as well pass me some pesticide on the side. According to the Pesticide Action Network website, “What’s on my Food,”
“Sweet potatoes, a traditional holiday favorite, tested positive for 14 different pesticide residues-6 of them neurotoxins.”
Okay, so I won’t eat the sweet potatoes…so pass the cranberry sauce…couldn’t live without this mouth watering topping. Why are the PAN people shaking their head no? …. And flashing a big card that reads,
“6 suspected hormone disruptors were found on cranberries. These chemicals were linked to cancer, obesity & developmental disorders.”
Well, that’s it. I just lost my appetite. Especially when I realized that I would be devouring pesticides rather than the comfort foods I loved. Worse yet, 88 million pounds of pesticides are applied to our food each year, which equates to about three pounds a person. So, I guess we are made up of pesticides, not water, as I had previously thought.
Time and time again I have heard from people, isn’t the government watching over us? And I shake my head with disbelief and usually say “nope.” On the PAN website, was the below footnoted quote that sum it all up.
“Since the Environmental Protection Agency (E.P.A.) regulates most chemicals on a chemical-by-chemical basis, the combined and cumulative effects of a mixture of pesticides are nearly impossible for them to address – and so they usually don’t. 1″
Now the wake up call from PAN. Cumulative effects of pesticide exposure can lead to cancer, developmental and neurological disorders, reproductive and hormonal system disruptions just to name a few. Pregnant women and children are at greater risk .
In a Chicago Tribune article it was reported that Professor Alex Lu’s study that found organophosphates, or OPs, consistently in the systems of Seattle-area children ages 3 to 11 who ate non-organic diets. However, when the children were switched to organic diets for five days, the pesticide levels became undetectable. The article further states,
“The professor acknowledged the importance of fresh produce in a young diet but is concerned that conventional produce consumption translates too easily into the presence of OPs in these developing systems. He advises against giving children conventionally farmed produce from any items on the Environmental Working Group’s “Dirty Dozen,” which is culled from FDA and USDA test results. Other produce on that list are strawberries, apples, nectarines, cherries, lettuce, bell peppers, celery, pears, kale, imported grapes and carrots”
And how about the farmers and their workers who face the greatest exposure to pesticides? According to PAN,
“Occupational exposure to pesticides in acute cases range from dizziness and nausea to death; chronic exposures are linked to the same array of diseases listed above plus a few more listed below.
Some of the illness related to pesticides on farm were acute poisonings, allergic asthma in farm women, childhood leukemia, Organophosphates health effects, and Parkinson’s Disease. And you thought the government was watching out for you.
PAN further states, there are pesticide residues on organic foods as well since the pesticide can arrive at farms via the air, water or dust. However, the residues are far less than on its conventional food counterparts. The Chicago Tribune independently tested California organic peaches and locally grown peaches and found that
“Of the 50 compounds the Tribune had tested for, one showed up on the organic peaches and three or fewer pesticides were detected on the Michigan and Illinois peaches”.
I know. You are saying to yourself. Thanks for ruining my Thanksgiving, Anna. Do you think I would be just a doom and gloomer without some hope? With every dark cloud, comes a silver lining. Here is what you can do:
- If you can afford it, buy organic.
- If not, the Environmental Working Group has created a dirty dozen fruits and vegetable which are laden with pesticides. (See here for a list.) Avoid buying these dozen fruits and vegetables unless you can buy organic. Check out their iPhone Shopper’s Guide as well.
- Get involved and receive updates from PAN, take action through PAN’s action alerts, and spread the word.
- Have a blog? Post a banner on your site. See the one above.
- Download the new iPhone app which provides you with comprehensive list of food with information about the type and how dangerous the particular pesticides are in the foods.
- Check the site for pesticide information for a variety of foods (almonds to frozen winter squash).
- Buy locally after you have a conversation with the farmer as to his or her pesticide use. What more information about a particular pesticide, see here. (The same information is on the iPhone app.)
This Thanksgiving count as one of your blessing these hard working groups (PAN and EWG) who have made it possible for us to be more informed about the foods we eat. Being informed is the smartest way to leading a healthier lifestyle.