You know how people keep saying our food is loaded with cancer-causing toxins? It's because our food is loaded with cancer-causing toxins. And the eaters we should be most worried about are young children. A new study by UC Davis and UCLA looked at how children are exposed to toxins through their food.
The study looked at the diets of 364 children in California and estimated how high their risk for exposure to toxins is based on what they ate. The findings weren't good. All of the children were found to be at high risk for exposure to toxic compounds including arsenic, dieldrin, DDE (related to DDT), dioxins, and acrylamide -- which are linked to cancer, developmental disabilities, and birth defects.
Preschool children (ages 2-4) are especially at risk because early exposure to toxins can have long-term effects on their health, especially on their developing brains and their chances of getting cancer.
So this is pretty depressing. Toxins, toxins everywhere! It really is as bad as they say it is. I think a lot of us keep this vague idea of toxins in our food in the backs of our minds. Like, somewhere in the closet, buried under stuff like "paying the bills" and "keeping the 2-year-old from running out into the street." Not to mention -- I think we all want to believe that no responsible company would knowingly pump dangerous chemicals into the earth or our food. Right? RIGHT?!?
Ha ha ha, of course they would. They do it all that time. Chemical lobbyists (aka the "Cancer Lobby) are fighting every day to maintain our toxic way of life. What's a parent to do? Well, the researchers knew you'd be asking that question, so their study included suggestions for reducing your kids' risk for exposure.
1. Eat organic or minimally-treated foods. Check out the "dirty dozen" -- the 14 foods you'll most benefit from eating organic.
2. Eat a wide variety of foods. "Varying our diet and our children's diet could help reduce exposure," says the study's lead researcher Irva Hertz-Picciotto. "Because different foods are treated differently at the source, dietary variation can help protect us from accumulating too much of any one toxin."
3. Eat less meat and animal fats and switch to organic milk to reduce your exposure to DDE. Toxins love to hide in animal fats.
4. Eat smaller fish lower down in the food chain to reduce your exposure to metals like mercury. These "safer" fish include: mackerel, catfish, tilapia, sardines, flounder, hake, salmon, oysters.
5. Eat fewer processed foods like potato and tortilla chips, which are high in a cooking byproduct called acrilomide.
6. Get the bigger picture! We need to get companies to reduce their use of the most toxic chemicals. It's one of the keys to making organic (or less-toxic) food less expensive -- but it's also much harder than making a personal choice in the supermarket. A final thing you can do to help reduce the risk for all children is to tell Congress to listen to families instead of chemical companies and pass the Safe Chemicals Act.
Are you concerned about your kids' exposure to toxins?
Image via mollypop/Flickr