Dangerous Endocrine-Disrupting Chemicals in Organic Food too? New Study
By Tom Philpott, Mother Jones
Bisphenol A (BPA) and phthalates are what’s known as “endocrine disruptors”—that is, at very small doses they interfere with our hormonal systems, giving rise to all manner of health trouble. In peer-reviewed research, BPA has been linked to asthma, anxiety, obesity, kidney and heart disease, and more. The rap sheet for phthalates, meanwhile, includes lower hormones in men, brain development problems, diabetes, asthma, obesity, and, possibly, breast cancer.
So, ingesting these industrial chemicals is a bad idea, especially if you’re a kid or a pregnant woman. But avoiding them is very difficult, since they’re widely used in plastics, and are ubiquitous in the food supply. The federal government has not seen fit to ban them…consumers are on their own to figure out how to avoid ingesting them.
Unfortunately, that’s a really hard task—and eating fresh, local, and organic might not be sufficient, as new research (abstract), published in the peer-reviewed Journal of Exposure Science and Environmental Epidemiology, shows.
Researchers… were surprised to find that eating mainly fresh, local, organic food, cooked and stored without plastics, seemed to dramatically boost levels of these endocrine disruptors.
Stunned by their outlier results, [the researchers] tested a range of ingredients for phthalates (they didn’t test the food for BPA). The researchers found high levels of DEHP in two kinds of foods: dairy, which had come in glass bottles from a local farm, and spices, which were certified organic but imported…
Spices and dairy are well established as carriers of phthalates.…even in relatively small commercial dairies, milk is collected by from cows’ udders through soft, flexible plastic tubing—the very kind that often contains phthalates, which are used to make plastic flexible…As for the organic spices—check out ground coriander in the chart above—organic standards say nothing about chemicals that might leach into foods through processing. Virtually all spices consumed in the United States are imported, and it’s extremely difficult to get information on processing practices, which might be where endocrine disruptors are sneaking in.
"…whether we buy milk in glass bottles or microwave food in plastic containers—processing is taking place beyond our view that can contaminate our food with endocrine-disrupting chemicals…
These results add to a weight of evidence that should push the FDA to take action on the role of plastic conditioners in food processing and packaging.
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