Last July, I wrote a story about the widely publicized Food and Drug Administration findings that trans fats are no longer generally recognized as a safe food additive. I went on to talk about how, for regulators charged with protecting our health, it never seems to be whether a substance we are exposed to may be harmful or even toxic in concentrated form. To the FDA, the key issue isn't the chemical, but how much of the substance consumers might ingest per serving. They rely on the measure of "the best science available" in making their determination of what are safe levels; and, of course, the science they use can change over time. In all of this, cumulative dietary exposure to these substances never seems to be a consideration.
Recently, the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences added styrene to its list of substances "reasonably anticipated" to cause cancer. Styrene has also been linked to nerve damage and hormonal disruption. We are talking about the chemical used in the manufacture of popular Styrofoam cups and food containers — a product based on what is called styrene monomers. When we drink a cup of coffee or spoon heated chicken noodle soup or chili out of a Styrofoam cup, we are also taking in small doses of chemicals that leach from the container. Heat activates this transfer, as does oil, acids and alcohol.
I reported in July of this year of how the Environmental Protection Agency National Human Adipose Tissue Survey collected numerous samples of human fat tissue in 1986. It detected styrene residues in all the samples. It's now very likely that we are walking around with styrene residue in our system courtesy of disposable food containers.
Not to be concerned, we're told. The levels released from these containers are very low, almost untraceable. I don't know about you, but I don't find this a comforting response. Think about how many times we've eaten food from Styrofoam containers over the years - of the thousands of doses we've taken in.
Every day we are bombarded with a multitude of toxins in the environment. We know that the negative health impacts from this constant exposure can add up. According to the World Health Organization's latest findings, ambient air pollution kills 3 million people globally each year and poor air quality can lead to an increased risk of stroke, heart disease, lung cancer and chronic and acute respiratory diseases, including asthma. They recognize that health impacts are cumulative.
Yet this does not appear to be the way regulators look at the food we eat. If it were not so, then how can the constant bombardment of even the smallest particles of substances unessential to nutrition, known to be bad news in higher doses, continue to be allowed in our food system?
As mentioned last week, heavy use of the world's most popular herbicide, Roundup, is now being linked to a range of health problems and diseases, including Parkinson's, infertility and cancers, according to a recent study. Roundup is by far the most heavily used herbicide in the country. Some 18.9 billion pounds have been used globally since its introduction in 1974, making it the most widely and heavily applied weed-killer in the history of chemical agriculture. Yet the Food and Drug Administration has no idea how much of it ends up on the food we eat. The FDA has never bothered to test for chemical residues on foods headed to market (that is, until now).
Some health advocates are not content to wait to see where federal testing may go. The Organic Consumers Association recently revealed that samples it took of Shredded Wheat, a product said to be made of "100 percent Whole Grain Wheat," analyzed at an independent lab in California, tested positive for the herbicide glyphosate (Roundup's active ingredient).
You don't have to be a chemist to know that glyphosate is not only "unnatural," it's a toxin chemical — it kills weeds and crops too we're told; hence the introduction of GMO crops designed to be resistant to its toxic ways. The testing found Shredded Wheat to contain 0.18 parts per million of glyphosate, far below a level deemed unacceptable by federal regulators. So, what's to worry about? For starters, the nonprofit group Alliance for Natural Health, which did its own testing in April, found glyphosate in almost half of the 24 store-bought breakfast food items they looked at. While far from conclusive, I think it's safe to say that glyphosate's may well be pervasive in our food supply and that, taken cumulatively, this could pose a problem.
A growing body of research is now documenting health concerns of glyphosate as an endocrine disruptor that has the capacity to kill beneficial gut bacteria and damage the DNA in human embryonic, placental and umbilical cord cells. It has also been linked to birth defects and reproductive problems in laboratory animals. A study published in the scientific journal Entropy found that exposure to such residues to negatively impact the body and to be "insidious" and manifests slowly over time.
It's important to concede that modern pesticides have helped to make farming more productive and to increase yields. I'm sure a majority of farmers do their best to follow safe practices, to read carefully chemical labels, to follow the law and to try and ensure that they are making both safe and profitable decisions for their business.
But they also have other reasons to be concerned about rampant pesticide use. Farmers who work with pesticides, even without major mishaps, are said to have a greater risk of neurological problems according to a study of nearly 19,000 farmers by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences. This was no short time snapshot either. Researchers believe that over a 25-year period of study, their findings were able to show results that might not have been obvious in a smaller group over a shorter period of time.
Write to Chuck Norris ([email protected]) with your questions about health and fitness. Follow Chuck Norris through his official social media sites, on Twitter @chucknorris and Facebook's "Official Chuck Norris Page." He blogs at http://chucknorrisnews.blogspot.com. To find out more about Chuck Norris and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.
Photo credit: Dean Hochman