What Chemicals Are in Food? Simple Solutions to Avoid Harmful Toxins in Food

By Melinda Wenner Moyer, "How you can avoid BPA, mercury, pesticides and more chemicals in your food.," September/October 2011

How you can avoid BPA, mercury, pesticides and more chemicals in your food.

"Thank you for this article. This has long been a concern for our family. Luckily my in-laws raise grass fed beef, chicken, and organic pork. I would love a source for more food companies that have eliminated BPA and other toxins from...

The Health Effects of Chemicals and Toxins: A Clear Forecast

Truth is, nobody knows just how much of a risk toxins in our food really pose. In fact, organizations including the American Cancer Society have accused the President’s Cancer Panel report of being alarmist, estimating that only about 6 percent of cancers can be attributed to environmental exposures. It’s virtually impossible to prove that chemicals are causing the reported health effects, because we can’t intentionally expose people and see what happens. So most of the associations between exposures and disease are just that—associations. Plus, most research conducted today focuses on the effects of individual chemicals, but we’re exposed to dozens, if not hundreds, of chemicals at a time, and the effects of some multiple exposures may be more than the sum of their parts, say experts. Or, in some cases, they might cancel each other out.

What’s more, toxins get into our bodies through more than just food. We are exposed to them through our carpets, lawn chemicals—even our clothing. And we can’t control everything we put in our mouths anyway. When I’m at a party and suspect that the crudités are “conventional” and the hummus came from a BPA-lined can of chickpeas, I try my best to forget about my concerns and enjoy. As researcher Rudel says, “In the big scheme of things, these are probably small risks. You don’t want the fire department coming to rescue a kid’s lunch because a parent accidentally sent it in plastic [containers].” Ah, yes. The changes I made certainly have made my diet healthier, but it’s important to remember that a good healthy dose of perspective goes a long way toward keeping the threat of chemicals from poisoning our world. Sure, I’d like to be able to control every little aspect of my baby’s life. But I know that motherhood is sometimes about having the courage to take a deep breath and simply let things go.

Melinda Wenner Moyer is a science and health writer in Brooklyn, New York, and an adjunct professor in the Graduate School of Journalism at the City University of New York.

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