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Chemical-Free Kids

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By Allan Magaziner, D.O., Linda Bonvie and Anthony Zolezzi

Pesticides poison more than bugs.  In the United States 1.2 billion pounds of these chemicals are used each year (three-fourths in farming). With this dependency on quick, toxic fixes, it’s certainly no surprise we are killing fish, birds and beneficial insects, and poisoning our food, soil, water and air, along with our farm workers, our kids and ourselves.

Our ‘protection’ is at best a hit-and-miss proposition. Can the riskiest pesticides be regulated so that they can be used safely?  That was the premise of a law passed in 1996 called the Food Quality Protection Act (FQPA). It was to make pesticides “safer” for infants and children by finally acknowledging that they are exposed to the same chemicals from numerous sources, that different chemicals can have similar effects on the body, and that some pesticides are so bad kids need extra special protection from them.  The EPA has until 2006 to complete the task, however, and some experts say its actions so far have watered down the law’s intent.

The EPA permits pesticide residues to remain on food. They’re called  “tolerances,” the maximum legal amounts allowed in the food you eat.  Your fruit salad, for instance, could have multiple traces of pesticides in it, all quite legal, from a variety of chemicals applied to different fruits.  The FQPA was supposed to require that tolerances be set ten times higher to protect kids if there were “data gaps” on how certain chemicals might affect developing brains and nervous systems. But so far, that’s only been done in a fraction of the cases.

Things you can do now!

  • You don’t have to wait for the EPA to set safer standards for you and your kids.  Set your own standards by using certified organic foods whenever possible (or at least for the foods you and your kids eat the most of).
  • Find alternative methods of bug and weed control at home.
  • Find out when your kids’ school or day-care facility will be treated with chemicals, and discuss alternatives.  Be on the lookout for brown or wilting weeds, a definite tip-off that pesticides have been sprayed.
  • Keep off the grass when you see those white flags flying.
  • Don’t use flea collars on your pets and avoid shampoos for kids to treat head lice.  They may contain very toxic chemicals.
  • Take your shoes off at the door.  Chemicals can be tracked right into your carpet from the outside and picked up by crawling toddlers and kids playing on the floor.
  • If you use well water, have it tested for pesticide contamination.

Excerpt from:  Chemical-Free Kids, A parents’ guide to safe and healthful food for children

About the authors:

Anthony Zolezzi brings to the organic revolution the benefit of extensive experience and enterprise in many different aspects of food production and technology – a working knowledge he now devotes to improving the health of consumers and the environment. He was formerly the president and CEO of the New Organics Company and currently heads Zolezzi Foods, a consultancy dedicated to Natural and Organic Foods.

Linda Bonvie has specialized in reporting on health-related and environmental issues for more than a decade. Articles that she researched and co-authored played a major role in changing international policies related to aircraft pesticide spraying. She co-authored The Stevia Story: a tale of incredible sweetness and intrigue.  Her work has appeared in the Chicago Tribune, Boston Globe, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, and San Diego Union-Tribune as well as New Age Journal, Vegetarian Times, and E: The Environmental Magazine.


Publisher: Kensington -- Twin Streams, August 2003