California Children Are Contaminated

California Children Are Contaminated
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The levels of arsenic, banned pesticides, and dioxins exceeded cancer benchmarks in each of the 364 children tested. Which foods were the primary sources of toxic pollutants for preschoolers and their parents?

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Below is an approximation of this video’s audio content. To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video.

Recently, the diets of California children, ages two through seven, were analyzed to determine the cancer and non-cancer health effects from food contaminant exposures. “Food may be the primary route of exposure to [toxic heavy metals], persistent…pollutants…, and pesticides. Though food-borne toxic contaminants are a concern for all ages, they are of greatest concern for children, who are disproportionately impacted because they are still developing, and have greater intake of food and fluids relative to their…weight. Pediatric problems that have been linked to preventable environmental toxin exposures include cancer, asthma, lead poisoning, neurobehavioral disorders, learning and developmental disabilities, and birth defects.”

But, the good news is changing one’s diet can change one’s exposure. “A diet high in fish and animal products, for example, results in greater exposure to persistent [pollutants, like DDT and dioxins and heavy] metals than does a plant-based diet because these compounds bioaccumulate up the food chain.” And, plants are at the bottom of the food chain.

But, this sample of California kids was not eating a plant-based diet. And, “[c]ancer benchmark levels were exceeded by all [364] children…for arsenic, [the banned pesticide] dieldrin, [a metabolite of DDT called] DDE, and dioxins.”

“Children exceeded [safety levels] by a greater margin than adults. This is especially of concern for children because all of these compounds are suspected endocrine disruptors and thus may impact normal development. Cancer risk ratios were exceeded by over a factor of 100 for arsenic and [dioxins].”

Which foods were the worst? For preschoolers, the #1 food source of arsenic was poultry, though for their parents, it was tuna. The #1 source of lead was dairy. And, for mercury, it was seafood. The #1 source of the banned pesticides and dioxins was dairy.

They didn’t split up the groups by gender, but a similar study in Europe found that men had higher levels of some of these pollutants than women—for example, levels of the banned pesticide chlordane. But, women who never breastfed were right up there closer along with men, while the lowest levels were found in women who breastfed over 12 months. “It is therefore likely that the lactation-related reduction in [blood pollutant] levels [partially] explains the lower body burdens among women compared [to] men.” So, cows can lower their levels by giving some to us, then we pass it along to our children.

What non-cancer effects might some of these pollutants have? They can affect the immune system. “[S]tudies clearly demonstrate the ability of dioxins and related…compounds to have a long-lasting and deleterious [effect] on immune function.” This manifests as increased incidences of respiratory infections, ear infections, cough, and sore throat.

At first, most of the data was for during infancy, but now we have follow-up studies showing that “the immunosuppressive effects” of these toxins may “persist into early childhood.” So, we should try to reduce our exposure as much as possible.

How do we do that? “Because [these pollutants] accumulate in animal fat, consuming a plant-based diet,…[decreasing] meat, dairy, and fish consumption” may reduce exposure for children and adults alike.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Below is an approximation of this video’s audio content. To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video.

Recently, the diets of California children, ages two through seven, were analyzed to determine the cancer and non-cancer health effects from food contaminant exposures. “Food may be the primary route of exposure to [toxic heavy metals], persistent…pollutants…, and pesticides. Though food-borne toxic contaminants are a concern for all ages, they are of greatest concern for children, who are disproportionately impacted because they are still developing, and have greater intake of food and fluids relative to their…weight. Pediatric problems that have been linked to preventable environmental toxin exposures include cancer, asthma, lead poisoning, neurobehavioral disorders, learning and developmental disabilities, and birth defects.”

But, the good news is changing one’s diet can change one’s exposure. “A diet high in fish and animal products, for example, results in greater exposure to persistent [pollutants, like DDT and dioxins and heavy] metals than does a plant-based diet because these compounds bioaccumulate up the food chain.” And, plants are at the bottom of the food chain.

But, this sample of California kids was not eating a plant-based diet. And, “[c]ancer benchmark levels were exceeded by all [364] children…for arsenic, [the banned pesticide] dieldrin, [a metabolite of DDT called] DDE, and dioxins.”

“Children exceeded [safety levels] by a greater margin than adults. This is especially of concern for children because all of these compounds are suspected endocrine disruptors and thus may impact normal development. Cancer risk ratios were exceeded by over a factor of 100 for arsenic and [dioxins].”

Which foods were the worst? For preschoolers, the #1 food source of arsenic was poultry, though for their parents, it was tuna. The #1 source of lead was dairy. And, for mercury, it was seafood. The #1 source of the banned pesticides and dioxins was dairy.

They didn’t split up the groups by gender, but a similar study in Europe found that men had higher levels of some of these pollutants than women—for example, levels of the banned pesticide chlordane. But, women who never breastfed were right up there closer along with men, while the lowest levels were found in women who breastfed over 12 months. “It is therefore likely that the lactation-related reduction in [blood pollutant] levels [partially] explains the lower body burdens among women compared [to] men.” So, cows can lower their levels by giving some to us, then we pass it along to our children.

What non-cancer effects might some of these pollutants have? They can affect the immune system. “[S]tudies clearly demonstrate the ability of dioxins and related…compounds to have a long-lasting and deleterious [effect] on immune function.” This manifests as increased incidences of respiratory infections, ear infections, cough, and sore throat.

At first, most of the data was for during infancy, but now we have follow-up studies showing that “the immunosuppressive effects” of these toxins may “persist into early childhood.” So, we should try to reduce our exposure as much as possible.

How do we do that? “Because [these pollutants] accumulate in animal fat, consuming a plant-based diet,…[decreasing] meat, dairy, and fish consumption” may reduce exposure for children and adults alike.

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Images thanks to Crossett Library Bennington College via flickr

Doctor's Note

These findings should come as no surprise to those who saw my video Pollutants in Californian Breast Tissue. For an overview, see CDC Report on Environmental Chemical Exposure and President’s Cancer Panel Report on Environmental Risk.

Pollutant exposure may affect our ability to have children in the first place (see Male Fertility & Diet and Meat Hormones & Female Infertility). Such a delay, though, may allow us an opportunity to reduce our toxic burden through dietary change (see Hair Testing for Mercury before Considering Pregnancy and How Long to Detox from Fish before Pregnancy?).

During pregnancy, pollutants can be transferred directly (DDT in Umbilical Cord Blood), and, after pregnancy, through breastfeeding (The Wrong Way to Detox). Once our kids are contaminated, How Fast Can Children Detoxify from PCBs? The chemicals have implications for older children, too; see Protein, Puberty, & Pollutants.

I touch more on the presence of pesticides and other pollutants in dairy products in my video Preventing Parkinson’s Disease with Diet.

Seafood is not the only source of toxic heavy metals. See:

Videos on primary food sources of other industrial pollutants include:

There are some things we can eat, though, to counteract some of the toxins:

Update: I did a deep-dive into the arsenic issue in summer 2017. Here are the 13 videos in that series:

If you haven’t yet, you can subscribe to my videos for free by clicking here.

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