Protecting our children and ourselves
Sound Consumer | July 2002
by Walter J. Crinnion N.D.
Food roulette?, by Goldie Caughlan
People tend to think about themselves as not being toxic, possibly because of their healthy living habits, or just because toxicity always happens to someone else. Unfortunately this is not the case as one of my long-time friends recently stated after having her blood, urine and fat tested for toxicity:
"After having a fat biopsy and several provoked heavy metal urine assays, I am here to say that after eating mostly organic food for 25 years and living the 'clean life' I am pretty much a walking-talking toxic waste dump. All that clean living couldn't make up for growing up downstream from an explosives plant that made napalm, and living less than a mile from apple orchards."
What clean living provided her was 25 years with fewer toxins being added to her total burden. And that's important. Multiple published studies, including those by the Centers for Disease Control, have clearly shown that we all are carrying burdens of multiple environmental toxins, including Dioxins, DDE/T, PCBs, Phthalates (plastics), Styrene, Dichlorbenzene, Xylene, Ethylphenol, Chlordanes, Organophosphate pesticides, Lead, Mercury, Cadmium, Arsenic, and Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (from auto exhaust).
One unfortunate truth is that this toxic burden is building gradually with each generation as this "toxic legacy" is passed from mother to child. Numerous studies show that these 'fat soluble' toxins can easily cross the placental barriers to the fetus. In addition to this burden is the additional exposure that children are exposed to from infancy until adulthood.
The highest amount of pesticide residues, for example, was found in children whose parents used insecticides in the home or garden. But, such use did not account for all the findings. The authors concluded the major exposure was likely due to their diet.
What you can do
My patient who feels like a "walking talking waste dump" found that eating organics didn't clear out her childhood exposures, but it did help her total load from getting to the point where it caused her problems. The point is, we all carry toxins, but just how big are we going to let our individual loads get?
While we can't do much to shield ourselves from such things as car exhaust and the persistent legacy of now-banned chemicals such as DDE/T, clean living and organic food help hold additional toxins at bay. Remember, many diseases result from the accumulated, total stress on a body.
The Environmental Working Group (www.ewg.org) has published a "Shopper Guide" listing the fruits and vegetables with the most and least pesticide residues. Since many people have a limited shopping budget, I recommend that they concentrate their shopping dollars on buying organic versions of these 'dirty dozen' items, as well as organic eggs, milk and meat.
The 12 fruits and vegetables with the MOST pesticide resides are:
2. Bell peppers (green and red)
4. U.S. Cherries
6. Mexican Cantaloupe
10. Green Beans
11. Chilean Grapes
The 12 fruits and vegetables with the LEAST pesticide residues are:
4. Sweet Potato
6. Brussels Sprouts
7. U.S. Grapes
10. Green Onions
Fortunately, there is a natural compound that can cross the blood brain barrier and block chemical damage. This compound is Docosahexanoic acid, also termed DHA. DHA has been reported recently to help improve mental symptoms in children with ADD/ADHD. It has also been used to improve learning and intellectual ability. Because of the ubiquitous presence of the organophosphate pesticides, I think that everyone should be giving DHA to their children and themselves.
In addition, I recommend that everyone take a good multiple vitamin/mineral, take extra vitamin E and C, and discuss other preventive and treatment supplement regimes with their naturopathic physician.
Besides eating less polluted food, it's important to avoid sugar as much as possible. Besides the well-known adverse effects of sugar, it has also been shown to increase the amount of time that chemicals are circulating in the blood stream. The length of time that the chemicals stay in the body is heightened by a combination of high sugar and low protein.
What else can be done about this legacy of toxicity and our current daily additions to the load? In addition to the food that you eat, be mindful about the air that you breathe. Food and air give us the greatest amount of exposure. Buy organic foods as much as possible and reduce your own use of chemicals.
In addition, go to your local naturopathic physician and find out about safe ways to reduce your own burden, especially if you are planning to start a family soon. While the reality of the toxic assault can at first be frightening, you can take steps to protect yourselves and your families in the face of this problem.
Dr. Crinnion was a member of the first graduating class from Bastyr University where he is presently a member of the faculty. He is also on the adjunct faculty at National College of Naturopathic Medicine and the Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine. He does a weekly health spot on Northwest Cable News every Friday morning around 8:20 and 10:20 a.m. He is currently devoting his time to research, writing and teaching in the field of environmental medicine.
by Goldie Caughlan
Nutrition Education Manager, and member, National Organic Standards Board (NOSB)
The Environmental Working Group (EWG), mentioned in Dr. Crinnion's accompanying article, has another excellent and powerful feature on their website at www.foodnews.org/dailyfare.html. I recently used it to "analyze" what might be a typical day's food choices, especially during the summer. The feature, called DailyFare, accesses a vast database of pesticides found in foods you select.
Especially interesting, I think, is that it operates like a roulette wheel (somewhat like shopping for non-organic foods in any supermarket) because the chosen food can come up with different pesticides each time the program accesses it. This is because the data might include, for example, 2,000 analyses of real samples of that vegetable or fruit and the information is randomly accessed. So you might get a "cleaner" apple or strawberry one time and a "dirtier" sample the next. I find it very provocative and a potentially valuable tool for adults or students.
My day's tally included seven pesticide residues on a breakfast of non-organic conventional foods: English Muffin and butter, bacon and eggs, coffee and milk. Lunch brought six pesticides, based on a garden vegetable salad, tomato soup, and iced tea. A dinner of salmon, corn, spinach salad, peach cobbler, and white wine resulted in a whopping 16 pesticides. The report shows that 15 of these are carcinogenic, 15 damage the brain and nervous system, 12 interfere with hormones, seven cause birth defects, six damage reproductive systems, and three are dangerous to the body's immune system.
The report includes details of sources. For example, the conventional peaches in the cobbler also brought to the plate the following hitchhikers which (given a choice) none of us would ever voluntarily pick-up: Carbaryl, Chlorpyrifos, Dicloran, Iprodione, Permethrin (cis), Permethrin (trans), and Propargite were listed. That's just the peaches. The health effects of the chemical residues include virtually every one of the effects mentioned in the preceding paragraph. Individually. But the combined effects? That's not even included. It may not be calculable. Nor is the persistent tendency of many such chemicals to remain in our system. It also cannot address the differing effects on one's gender, age, and such.
Wow. This is the kind of indigestion that no amount of Tums™ or Malox™ can reach.
You may have read that "organic foods also can and do contain pesticides," or statements to that effect. This made headlines in a few newspapers this spring, the result of misleading or "spinning" the work of the Organic Materials Research Institute (OMRI) based in Eugene, Oregon. The research actually shows that organically produced foods consistently have extremely low residual (background) levels of dangerous pesticides, compared to non-organically grown produce, which includes produce termed IPM or grown with fewer chemicals than conventional produce.
I urge you to check out OMRI's excellent website at www.omri.org and read the full and actual results, with excellent explanatory comments from organizations including Consumer's Union.