Tags: toxins | food | ddt | arsenic

High Levels of Toxins Found in Food

Monday, 24 December 2012 09:33 AM

A new study has found typical foods in the American diet still contain a number of toxins that have long been banned or reduced in production — including DDE (a DDT metabolite), dioxins, arsenic, dieldrin, and acrylamide.
Although researchers stopped short of suggesting the food-borne toxins pose a health risk, they noted these compounds have been linked to cancer, developmental disabilities, birth defects and other conditions.
"Contaminants get into our food in a variety of ways," said Irva Hertz-Picciotto, chief of the Division of Environmental and Occupational Health at University of California-Davis, who helped conduct the study published in the journal Environmental Health. "They can be chemicals that have nothing to do with the food or byproducts from processing. We wanted to understand the dietary pathway pesticides, metals, and other toxins take to get into the body."
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Researchers assessed risks by comparing toxin consumption to established levels for health risks, based on information contained in a survey of California households with children to determine how their diets, and other factors, contribute to toxic exposure. The survey homed in on 44 foods known to have high concentrations of toxic compounds: metals (arsenic, lead and mercury), pesticides, dioxin, DDT, and the food processing byproduct acrylamide.
The results showed 364 children in the study had significant exposures to arsenic, dieldrin, DDE and dioxins, and acrylamide. Pesticide exposure was particularly high in tomatoes, peaches, apples, peppers, grapes, lettuce, broccoli, strawberries, spinach, dairy, pears, green beans, and celery.
"We focused on children because early exposure can have long-term effects on disease outcomes," said lead researcher Rainbow Vogt. "Currently, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency only measures risk based on exposures of individual contaminants. We wanted to understand the cumulative risk from dietary contaminants. The results of this study demonstrate a need to prevent exposure to multiple toxins in young children to lower their cancer risk."
Researchers suggested several strategies can reduce risks from food-borne toxins. Organic produce and milk have lower pesticide levels, for instance. Families also can reduce their consumption of animal meat and fats, which may contain high levels of DDE and other contaminants. Eating certain varieties of fish (those lower on the food chain) can reduce exposure to mercury levels.
Eating a varied diet can also the reduce risks from particular toxins. For instance, certain pesticides may be found in lettuce and broccoli, while others affect peaches and apples.
"Varying our diet and our children's diet could help reduce exposure," said Hertz-Picciotto. "Because different foods are treated differently at the source, dietary variation can help protect us from accumulating too much of any one toxin."
The study was funded, in part, by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
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Many foods in the American diet contain a number of toxins that have long been banned, experts say.
Monday, 24 December 2012 09:33 AM
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