Reduce Environmental Toxins: Food

As if we Moms don’t have enough to think about when feeding our families in a healthy, budget-conscious manner, here is yet another growing problem facing the health of our children.  On May 6, 2010, the President’s Cancer Panel (all appointed during the Bush administration, incidentally – these things take time) released an alarming report stating that they “were particularly concerned to find that the true burden of environmentally induced cancer has been grossly underestimated.”

The opening letter goes on to say that “children, including the unborn, are the most vulnerable and most of us are unaware of the risks. “ This 240 page document outlines many hazards in our daily environment. And while I’m grateful for progress in food production over the last 50 years, growing a tumor isn’t exactly my idea of a good trade.

CNN and the PCP report stated that there are over 80,000 chemicals in commercial use today and only 200 of those have been fully tested.   Wow.  So how should we, the Moms, realistically reduce our children’s (and our own) exposure to chemicals?

According to Laura Brooks-Bright, the Marketing Director for Whole Foods Market in Mountain Brook, if you were going to pick just a few products where organic selections could have an impact, she would choose meat and fruits/vegetables that have a soft exterior.

Strawberries in particular are good candidates for organic purchases. “It’s virtually impossible to clean strawberries and they are susceptible to bugs that require pesticides during production,” says Laura.  She recommends peeling fruits and vegetables when possible and when it isn’t, choosing organic. Additionally, she warned about root vegetables. “They are like sponges,” she said.  Potatoes? Really? But she’s right, common sense tells me that anything sprayed on the ground or in nearby water will be absorbed by these types of vegetables.

Laura offered this advice about purchasing on a budget. (1) Buy in season, (2) Consider frozen fruits and vegetables, and (3)“talk to the farmer.”  Birmingham is full of farmer’s markets and, while it is difficult to gain an organic rating, some local farmers do not use pesticides.

Here is a list of recommendations from the PCP Report related to food and water:

  • Filter home tap water (note: not all commercially bottled water is toxin free)
  • Store water in stainless steel containers, glass or BPA free containers.
  • Microwave food on glass or ceramic dishes instead of plastic
  • When possible, consume free range meats and food grown without pesticides
  • Avoid consumption of processed, charred and well-done meats (and we seem to grill extremely well-done, mostly by inattention…)

In addition to this article, NPR recently ran a story highlighting the results of a study conducted by the Environmental Law Foundation.   Their study found levels of lead in children’s juice and fruit cups above the state (California) and federal limits.

Before dismissing the findings as Left Coast hypervigilance, consider that the American Academy of Pediatrics states that any lead exposure is dangerous for children.

Here is the NPR Story as well as the list of juice and fruit products tested.  Birmingham Moms will likely want to avoid these products until the research is sorted out.