Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Even if you eat organic your blood is probably a toxic soup

In last week's Globe, there was an article about the results of a test done on several Canadians for hormone disrupting and carcinogenic chemicals. On average, the volunteers had a cocktail of 44 in their bodies, and their lifestyle choices did not significantly affect the results.
"The message to Canadians is -- it doesn't matter where you live, how old you are, it doesn't matter how clean living you are or if you eat organic food, or if you get a lot of exercise. We all carry inside of us hundreds of different pollutants and these things are accumulating inside our bodies every day."

Even the clean living Robert Bateman (yes, the artist) had remarkable levels of things like heavy metals; PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls used in electrical transformers and now banned); PBDEs (polybrominated diphenyl ethers used as fire retardants); PFOs (perfluorinated chemicals used in stain repellants, non-stick cookware and food packaging), pesticides and insecticides.

There is more background about how chemicals get into our bodies, and why there is so little regulation in this piece by Marco Visscher. Unfortunately the one thing largely missed in his article is pointed out clearly in the Globe article; we have little to no control over our exposure: "We don't have the choice to avoid things coming of smokestacks and getting into our food and water and things in consumer products we don't know about."

The environmental movement has been largely coopted by a very elitist consumerism in which our personal purchasing decisions are our only possible form of protest. This leaves out those without the means to buy those $3/lb organic imported apples. Not only is the rush to organics unfortunately ineffective in a world in which the very air is poisoned, but it is also unfair. Why should only individuals with a large discretionary income be able to vote (with their dollars)? And, with a lack of information, how can a consumer make wise choices anyways. Without total transparency and regulation of all companies, the power is not in the hands of consumers. That organic spaghetti I enjoyed tonight may have been created from ingredients grown on an earth-friendly farm, but it was processed in a factory and transported thousands of kilometers to get to my table. I have no idea if it was farmed by low-wage migrant workers, or if the cardboard glue contains harmful chemicals. The cooking pot might be leaking more poison into my food. Did I make a positive consumer decision or a negative one?

Whatever solutions we come up with, we need to act fast. The youngest and most helpless among us are being affected. They are finding high degrees of pollution in newborn babies.

More on Environmental Issues and Health.

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