Most of us know we are living in a toxic and polluted environment. Most of us know that we are exposed to pollution and have an increased risk of a wide range of diseases that these toxic chemicals can cause. Chronic health effects include cancer and other tumors; brain and nervous system damage; birth defects; infertility and other reproductive problems; and damage to the liver, kidneys, lungs, and other body organs, leukemia, birth defects, stillbirth, spontaneous abortion, sterility and infertility, endocrine disruption, genotoxicity, and impaired brain development. Children and especially pregnant women are more vulnerable to pesticide exposure because the nervous systems and immune systems of the baby are still developing. Because of their higher rates of cell division and lower body weight, children’s susceptibility to pesticide exposure is higher and the dosages are much lower than dosages that adult males would be able to cope with for example. Also, babies and children have immature organs and their immune system and detoxicating enzymes do not work as well as in adults so they are particularly vulnerable to toxic contaminants. Exposure during certain early development periods can cause permanent damage. If we analyze real-world exposure in real-life scenarios what would the result be? Are we in real danger or all of the talk about the vegan diet and eating low on a food chain to avoid bioaccumulation in a food chain of all of the lipophilic POPs (persistent organic pollutants) just an overblown marketing story? What is an official recommendation and what do the FDA toxicologists say about all of this?
In this study (1) the California children were tested for exposure to multiple dietary contaminants.
Cancer safety levels were exceeded by all children (100%) for arsenic, DDE, dieldrin, and dioxins.
In past times it was rarely the situation where the entire population was poisoned, every single participant measured with no exceptions. Also, the safety non-cancer benchmark level for acrylamide was exceeded by 96 percent of preschool-age children, and also 10 percent of children were above safety levels for mercury.
Acrylamide is a substance recognized as a carcinogen by the U.S. government agencies. It is created at high temperatures in reaction with starch. So any fried and baked starch-rich food is filled with it like bread, French fries, potato chips, and cookies. What is important is the level of exposure.
When FDA toxicologists say that they believe that the average daily intake of arsenic, poses no hazard to the consumer I say that I do not believe in their honesty. The one thing we can do is to apply logic, not belief.
The study showed that the real level of arsenic exposure was more than 100 times of acceptable daily levels for adults. More than 100 times the value not more than 100% in value. I want to write this again. More than 100 times of acceptable daily levels. For children and preschoolers, it was about 300 times. Let me write this again. 300 times more. “I want to believe” too, and I like the X-Files but not in FDA lying corrupted toxicologists.
The ratios of excess exposure in this study (how many times more above safety level the exposure level is) were as follows: 2–12 for DDE, 116–297 for arsenic, 18–67 for dieldrin, 4–5 for chlordane (among children) and 202–1010 for PCDD/Fs. Yes, it is up to 1010 times the allowed values for Dioxin (PCDDs).
Dieldrin was created as a safer alternative to DDT but was banned two years later in 1972. When we look into what food products are the most contaminated they were similar throughout all age groups.
Meat, dairy, potatoes, and cucumber are most contaminated with POPs (DDE, dieldrin, chlordane, and PCDD/Fs). Until 1988 when chlordane was banned, it was used for home termite control and citrus crops and corn.
Also, major POPs contributors were freshwater fish, poultry, mushrooms, cantaloupe, pizza (children only), and spinach (adults only).
When we look at pesticides that are in current use (endosulfan, permethrin, and chlorpyrifos), the main contributors are celery, strawberries, grapes, tomatoes, apples, peaches, pears, peppers, spinach, broccoli, lettuce, and green beans if we don’t count the levels in animal products.
For arsenic exposure, farm-raised salmon, tuna, poultry, and mushrooms were top contributors in all age groups.
For acrylamide exposure chips and all other types of fried potatoes like French fries, crackers, cereal for all age groups.
For mercury exposure, it was fish and especially tuna.
Dairy products are also the main contributor for chlorpyrifos exposure among children and lead exposure among all age groups. One of the top contributors was dairy and in some cases the main contributor of PCDD/Fs exposure, DDE, and chlordane. PCDD/Fs exposure from dairy was more pronounced in children due to lower dairy (and higher meat) consumption in adults.
For ordinary people, it might come as a surprise that milk in addition to meat was found to be a significant source of pesticides. This is a consequence of the use of chlorpyrifos on grazing fields and feeds given to cattle. This practice is forbidden in organic milk production. Milk is one of the leading sources of POPs.
Fish was a significant source of arsenic, dioxin, dieldrin, chlordane, and DDT intake.
The problem with chemicals like POPs is that they have the ability to accumulate in animal fat. So avoiding animal fat by decreasing consumption or choosing the lowest fat option of meat, dairy, and fish is one strategy to lower the exposure.
Another strategy to avoid the toxicity that will have a better result will be to consume a plant-based diet. In the case of rice, some strategies can lower the exposure, but in essence, nothing can be done because it is a plant that naturally absorbs more arsenic from the water in which it is growing. The situation is just worsened dramatically in the US because of the use of arsenic pesticides, and now the soil is polluted. On 31 December 2015, the FDA withdrew approval for the last of the arsenic-containing drugs. It should be noted that the EU has never approved drugs containing arsenic for animal consumption. So as of 2011, due to consumer pressure, the use of arsenic as feed to the chickens is banned in the US. Why has this practice lasted so long and a better question will be why have we use arsenic at all if we know the history of the substance?
Passages selected from a book: “Go Vegan? Review of Science: Part 1” [Milos Pokimica]