Gratitude makes the journey better and so does kindness

Tag: children’s health

Pink Corn To Go

The package read Kandy Corn – The sweetest variety, a favorite summer treat. It was given to us with a bunch of other seeds to plant. But in one corner there was a stamped warning: “Contents poisonous. Do not eat. Do not let kids handle it. Contents sprayed with chlorpyrifos.” Right.

I opened the package nonetheless. Curiosity does that to people. At least I didn’t do it like Alice in Wonderland did. It said “don’t eat” so I didn’t. Plus I know I’m in no Wonderland when it comes to seeds that are not heritage seeds, since the altering of good old plants has started (not just GM plants but also chemically treated.)

The kernels almost looked ashamed of themselves. They were coated in bright pink and some of that substance rubbed off on the paper. It was a crime scene alright. I cringed and showed it to the boys. More cringing ensued.

The purpose of having a garden aside from the obvious (growing food) is to teach my boys about how food happens. Yet the sprayed chemical defeats the purpose. Keep away from kids means they’re not only not a part of growing the food, but they’re getting a mighty twisted idea about the starting point of a garden or plant too.

The questions bubbled up: will the chemical stay on the seeds after if put them in the soil (not that I would ever do that but entertaining an idea for the sake of finding more about it is a necessary and valuable enterprise). Will the chemical transfer to soil and affect bugs, many of which are helping the plants grow, will it affect butterflies, birds, will it affect my boys whether now or later?

I’ve never been friends with the pesticide idea, or any kind of chemical found on food. Avoiding something like poison is a figure in speech in most cases, but awfully accurate in this case and definitely not funny. If people find an excuse to use a bit of pesticide here and there, they are on their way of creating a demand and that will create an offer they cannot refuse. Treat with chemical, bugs and weeds die, hassle disappears, plants grow. Ta-da! Crop ready to go to the eager but unaware customer = you and me.

We’re paying in having soil, air and water being …well, soiled. We’re paying in sickness; increased severity and higher number of people with food allergies, earlier onset age for allergies and other health problems. Like I said, it’s no Wonderland and unless you look really close it’s hard to see it that way. After all, shelves in gigantic stores all over Canada and all over the Western world are stocked with perfectly looking produce. Everything available at all times, no matter the season. No warning of toxic substances on the produce either. Because let’s entertain the idea for a bit: If it would say “Caution: Sprayed with toxic chemicals that could affect your nervous system” would you buy it? Would you eat it? Thought so. Me neither.

I know people who balk at eating an organic apple that happens to sport a bruise due to temporary manhandling yet they would grab a sprayed shiny apple without any concerns for what they’re about to eat.

Like I often say, just because you can’t see it doesn’t mean it’s not there. It’s the most insidious kind of pollution – literally so, no pun intended.

Back to my pink corn. Am I crying wolf over a few dyed kernels?

According to the National Pesticide Information Center based in Oregon, chlorpyrifos is an organophosphate insecticide that is targeting the nervous system of insects. Ultimately the insect paralyses and dies.

According to the same source, people and pets can suffer the same effects without the lethal outcome when exposed briefly to the chemical. So no death is good news, but exposure to small amounts – how small is small – may cause runny nose, increased saliva or drooling, dizziness, nausea, headache. Serious exposure – how much is too much? – can cause vomiting, abdominal muscle cramps, muscle twitching, tremors and weakness, and loss of coordination. Ouch.

The list of possible affections continues. With some good news: No connection with cancer has been established whatsoever. That’s good. But bad news for children. Exposure has been linked to changes in social behavior and brain development. Are you thinking what I am thinking? Attention deficit disorder, hyperactivity and all things related?

I scratch my head, I send away the raucous loud monsters inside that cannot keep still when I come across yet another chemical that is out there for children to breathe and touch and eat, whether or not they handle the pink corn. Because unless something has changed since 2012 when the chlorpyrifos was reviewed by Health Canada, the very pesticide is still in use – whether limited or not does not brightens my perspective at the moment – and finding its way into the air, soil and water that we rely on to exist.

The same report states that it takes weeks to years for all the chlorpyrifos to break down.It binds to soil particles and it travels through the air too, after  being sprayed on plants. Some birds such as robins have been killed by this chemical and it is also toxic to fish and invertebrates,including earthworms. The teeny compost soldiers in the soil.

Final punch: very toxic to bees. That too. Bees have been on the decline (elegantly put) for a few years now. They pollinate the food we grow. We have fruit and other foods because of the hard pollination work bees do. Chemicals affect bees, bees die, well, you do the math. I’m nauseous.It can’t be the pink corn because I haven’t touched it. The proximity of it? Perhaps.

When are we going to stop this? And how? We have to. The pink corn was throw way (yeah, still around somewhere – the irony!)

This is but one chemical. There are many. It can be done. Agree? Suddenly I can’t stomach pink anymore…

Are We Failing Our Kids? (Part 2)

A couple of days ago I went to search for some new pajamas for the boys. They are growing you see. And pajamas stay the same and although I buy based on need and not want, I am facing some severe consumer dilemmas lately. The pajamas I looked at were all fire-retardants, it said so on the label. I cringed thinking how many parents buy pajamas believing that’s all they buy. Fire-retardant means that the fabric has been treated with chemicals that should delay the flaming process should there be a fire. Emphasis on should. They affect children’s health before they do any of that though. Artificial fabrics do catch on fire a lot easier than their natural counterparts (wool, cotton) so all of a sudden the obvious question budges ahead of the line… Which fiber is best? But that’s not what I’m writing about today. It’s the idea of allowing chemicals like that to even come near our children.

I find it outrageous that we allow such things to be worn by our children. You see, I am the declared enemy of “invisible” pollutants that kills us slowly but surely. Flame/fire-retardants are among them. You can’t see see them, you can’t smell them and you cannot get rid of them.

It’s a story that’s unfolding slowly and right under our noses but somehow we’re missing it: Chemicals that are being added to our food, or they come with out food, chemicals that are being added to the things we buy (flame retardants and antibacterial substances.)¬† A few years ago I wrote a piece about xenoestrogens and how ubiquitous they are and how they unmistakeably affect our health.

The saddest thing is that the most affected of all population groups are… Care to guess? Our children; the ones who are already born and the ones to be born, because many of these invisible enemies reach the fetus. Our children’s growing bodies take in everything, and their effects are partially known (neither are good, in fact far from it!) and the sad kicker is that many of these substances accumulate in their bodies and whether they wreak havoc now or later, we know for certain that they do wreak havoc.

Another piece I wrote not long ago on bisphenol A (BPA) reiterates the story that could almost sound boring if it wasn’t so scary: We rely on chemicals such as BPA that make our life more convenient, and convenience drives extremely aggressive campaigns that sell more of that convenience, but in turn we are giving away our health and our children’s. Talk about a dirty sell out. Sure the BPA was banned from baby products but there’s a two headed monster trying to bite my fingers as I try to write this: Traces of BPA were found in baby bottles even after the ban, and since the BPA was not banned from as many products as possible, well, the infamous substance can and will find a way to our babies. As for “safe” alternatives to the big bad BPA, it turned out that the replacement (BPS) has equally deleterious effects.

The brain and the endocrine system are most affected. Irony has it that the effects are not immediately seen, which makes the whole problem a lot harder to solve. Starting with enough of us believing that we do have a big fat hairy problem on our hands.

Take hyperactivity in children. Most of us know about this frustrating state of being that our children wallow in and us parents wallow with them. It’s rampant we’re being informed periodically. Yet here I am rummaging through many studies on my invisible enemies and the fact that I come across over and over again is that most of these substances affect the brain and one is by causing hyperactivity. A very bad joke indeed.

How do we tolerate this? How do we let our children touched by chemicals we do not necessarily need and if we really do need some of them, we definitely do not need them in the insane amounts they are used nowadays. Moreover, we need to make sure that the guidelines set by the government are set with our best interest in mind and not to support industry giants that think of anything but people’s health. I wish I could say that part is taken care of, that we are in good hands. But it really comes down to knowing and acting on that knowledge.

It’s not fair. It’s not fair to not have transparency about these issues just like it is not fair to have biased studies that show no ill effects when in fact they are there. It’s the products we let our children sit on, play with, sleep on, dress in, and eat from, and of course, the food they eat.

A recent study that was published in Nature showed the effects of GM corn consumption on rats. Their bodies were deformed by tumors and while the non-believers argued that the rats used in the study are prone to tumors, there was also a control group that had fewer and less prominent tumors. The safety studies done on GM foods by companies like Monsanto are short, very few and the conclusion is predictable: GM foods are safe to eat. As with chemicals, we won’t see the effects right away. Problem is, when the effects become visible it’s too late to intervene or in case of some countries (already happening) it will be impossible to know which crop is which. Russian roulette anyone? Children eat corn and corn-derived products. It should not become their punishment.

There is no labeling because we’re not there yet somehow. How to then? The equation has a major unknown term: how much is too much? That children are more affected than adults is no debate to me, but feel free to bring your counter-argument forth and I promise to revisit. In the meantime, I reserve the right to shed as much light as possible onto the subject. More to come in future posts.

Now if you are tempted to come to the conclusion that the solution is buying organic and such, well, I’d say it’s a start but it’s barely enough. We need to do more and while buying clean is part of it, it works in conjunction with the rest of it. Such as becoming aware of what is happening around us, and as a consequence, putting out a big flat NO when it comes to providing our children with adulterated products and foods. Wondering in what kind of disheveled state they’ll be inheriting the planet once we’re done with it? That’s where we should start. If there is no or less demand from consumers, production of deleterious (yet convenient) goods will slow down and sooner or later die. It can be done, I strongly believe that, although it involves playing ball with the big boys who often times kick hard and mercilessly. Power is in number though, we know that already. For teh sake of our children it’s all worth it. It’d be a shame to fail them, too high a price.

As for the pajamas, I will not settle for any fire-retardant ones, just like I will not settle for anti-bacterial pillows either (they were on sale by the very colorful pajamas)… But that’s another good story that I will leave for next time.

Now I will go make some popcorn for the boys. GM-free and butter-ful.

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