by Anand Wells, Live Food Education
Sometime ago I was amazed to discover that most chemicals (pesticides, herbicides, fertilisers) used in modern day agriculture have a sinister history. Compounds such as organophosphates were first produced in huge quantities as chemical weapons during World Wars I and II. Once the wars had ended these huge chemical corporations, who had literally “made a killing” manufacturing these substances for governments, needed a way to continue to profit from their leftover stockpiles. Instead of producing their chemicals to kill humans, they came up with the idea of using them to kill insects and weeds and to make fertilisers. Using their considerable influence companies such as Bayer, BASF, DuPont, Dow and Monsanto changed the face of farming to what it has become today.
Agrochemicals along with a whole host of other man-made chemicals found in personal care products and cleaning products to name a few are insidious in that they cannot be seen, smelled or tasted and yet they are there. They may not kill us immediately as chemicals of warfare would, instead they bio-accumulate in our body tissues and organs like a time bomb waiting to go off.
In a first-of-its-kind study, researchers from two major laboratories looked for the presence of toxic chemicals in umbilical cord blood of 10 newborn babies born in U.S. hospitals in August and September 2004. A collaboration of the Environmental Working Group and Commonweal brought about the study. (Full report here.)
Of the more than 400 chemicals tested for, 287 were detected in umbilical cord blood. Of these, 180 cause cancer in humans or animals, 217 are toxic to the brain or nervous system, and 208 cause birth defects or abnormal development in animals. Scientists refer to the presence of such toxins in the newborn as “body burden.”
According to the study’s authors, the scope of testing was limited because chemical companies are not required to divulge methods for detecting the presence of their chemicals in the human body. “Had we tested for a broader array of chemicals,” they wrote, “we would almost certainly have detected far more than 287.”
Among those substances found to be polluting the blood supply for the newborn babies were eight perfluorochemicals used as stain and oil repellants in fast-food packaging, clothes and textiles, including the Teflon chemical PFQA, a carcinogen; dozens of widely used bromated flame retardants and their toxic byproducts; and many pesticides.
In addition to poisoning our bodies, when used in agriculture and industry these chemicals destroy beneficial microorganisms in the soils, poison wildlife and pollute the waterways and environment in general.
So what can we do to protect ourselves from this onslaught of dangerous chemicals? Here are just a few suggestions:
- Eat organic whenever possible
- Buy organic bed sheets and clothing
- Use natural cleaning agents
- Use organic or non-toxic personal care products (Shampoo, soap, toothpaste, skin lotions, sun cream etc)
- Avoid non-stick and aluminium cookware
- Obviously use no chemicals like Roundup in the garden
- Use non-toxic paint
It is important to know that the words “Natural” and “Organic” can be very deceiving when written on the side a bottle. Get to know you ingredients. Just because a skincare product may say an ingredient is “Derived from coconut” does not mean they is safe. For instance Cocamide DEA or Sodium Hydroxysultaine are followed by the term "derived from coconut oil" which leads the unsuspecting consumer to believe that these synthetic chemicals must be natural.
Products labeled “Certified Organic” are the most trustworthy and safest way to go.
For more sobering reading I recommend The GreenPeace article “Human Impacts of Man-made Chemicals"