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   WB01343_.gif (599 bytes) Pesticide and Environmental Update

Toxic America

On June 2nd and 3rd, CNN aired "Toxic America," a special investigative report detailing the prevalence and invisibility of hazardous chemicals we are all exposed to in our homes, air, water and food. "For 80 percent of the common chemicals in everyday use in this country we know almost nothing about whether or not they can damage the brains of children, the immune system, the reproductive system, and the other developing organs," noted Dr. Phil Landrigan, a pediatrician and director of the Children's Environmental Health Center at Mount Sinai School of Medicine. The first hour of the CNN report presented the struggle by residents of Mossville, Louisiana to regain their right to live in a healthy environment despite being surrounded by 14 chemical plants. Mossville has an astounding cancer cluster, clearly linked to the contamination of the air, water and ground beneath residents' homes. The investigation was aided by Advocates for Environmental Human Rights, a DC-based public interest law firm and Pesticide Action Network ally working with groups particularly in the Gulf states.

The second hour of the CNN report focuses on food contamination. By eating any one of the 12 most contaminated fruits or vegetables featured on the program, consumers risk ingesting between 47 and 67 different pesticides; and this result is after the produce has been washed with a high power pressure water system by USDA analysts. According to PAN's pesticide residue database, What'sOnMyFood.org, a single serving apple may contain carcinogens, suspected hormone disruptors, neurotoxins, and developmental and reproductive toxins. CNN points out that consumers can avoid up to 80 percent of dietary pesticide exposures simply by buying organic versions of what the Environmental Working Group calls the "Dirty Dozen" produce items. Not covered in the story were dangers posed to farmers, farmworkers and their families who remain exposed to pesticides applied during the full production cycle of even those foods that retain the least residues. Also not covered was the fact that pesticides used on fields often make their way into drinking water. Thus purchasing produce with fewer pesticides on the final product will not necessarily reduce our exposure from drinking water. Sweet corn, for example, typically retains minimal pesticide residue. Yet atrazine, a known hormone disruptor and ubiquitous herbicide used predominately on corn, is found in 94% of tested U.S. drinking water.

 

 

 

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