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Going organic helps you avoid toxic and synthetic chemicals that are detrimental to human health and to the health of the environment. Going organic helps fight climate change, prevents damage to valuable water resources, promotes diversity and reduces your carbon footprint.
According to Organicitsworthit.org, Organic is the most heavily regulated and closely monitored system in the U.S. Unlike other eco-labels, the organic label is backed by a set of rigorous federal production and processing standards. These standards require that products be grown and processed without the use of toxic and synthetic pesticides and fertilizers, genetic engineering, antibiotics, synthetic growth hormones, artificial flavors, colors, preservatives, sewage sludge and irradiation.
How Does Organic Agriculture Preserve the Environment?
Robyn O?Brien, author of The Unhealthy Truth, shows how organic farming helps to preserve and protect the quality of water supplies and aquatic environments on the OTA affiliated website organicitsworthit.org. Robyn claims that organic farming helps combat climate change, fosters species diversity, prevents damage to valuable water resources, and protects people from exposure to harmful chemicals?. She cites the following research as evidence:
-?Organic farming can help reduce ground and surface water contamination, and can safeguard drinking water supplies in certain areas, thus contributing to food safety in a larger sense and sustainable agriculture.
Source: Food Safety and Quality as Affected by Organic Farming,? 22nd FAO Regional
Conference for Europe, Porto, Portugal, July 24-28, 2000, Agenda Item 10.1.
– Farm comparisons in Europe have shown that nitrate leaching rates on organic farms are 40-57% lower per hectare and carbon dioxide emissions are 40-60% lower per hectare than conventional systems, according to a comprehensive European-wide literature review?.
Source: Environmental and resource use impacts of organic farming in Europe,? by Stolze, Piorr, Haring and Dabbert, 2000.
-A nine-year study by USDA Agricultural Research Service (ARS) researchers at Beltsville, MD, has shown that organic farming can build up soil organic matter better than conventional no-till farming can, according to results published in the July 2007 issue of Agricultural Research magazine.
Source: No Shortcuts in Checking Soil Health,? http://www.ars.usda.gov/is/AR/archive/jul07/soil0707.htm?pf=1.
-Research at The Rodale Institute has shown that organic practices can remove about 7,000 pounds of carbon dioxide from the air and sequester it in an acre of farmland per year. Thus, Rodale estimates that if all 434 million acres of U.S. cropland were converted to organic practices, it would be the equivalent of eliminating 217 million cars—nearly 88 percent of all cars in the country today and more than a third of all the automobiles in the world.
What is a Pesticide?
According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), a pesticide is any substance or mixture of substance intended for: preventing, destroying, repelling, or mitigating any pests. The term pesticide also applies to herbicides, fungicides, and various other substances used to control pests.
What is the Impact on Health Caused by Exposure to Pesticides?
Pesticides can cause harm to humans, animals and the environment because they are designed to kill or otherwise adversely affect living organisms. The health effects of pesticides depend on the type of pesticide. Some can affect the nervous system. Others may irritate the skin or eyes. Some pesticides may be carcinogens, or cancer causing agents. Others may affect the hormone or endocrine system of the body. Some human health problems related to pesticide exposure include:
ADHD: According to the Journal for Pediatrics, exposure to pesticides at levels common for children in the United States may be a contributing factor in attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) among children. The National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey was used to examine the association between concentrations of pesticides and ADHD in a representative sample of 1139 children ages 8 to 15. Interviews were conducted with parents to confirm ADHD and urine samples were taken to analyze the levels of pesticide metabolites in the children. The study found that children with above average levels of pesticides in their urine were roughly twice as likely of being diagnosed with ADHD. This study exemplifies the importance of minimizing young children?s exposure to even low levels of chemical pesticides. The study can be found here: http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/cgi/content/abstract/
CANCER: According to a report released by the President?s Cancer Panel on May 6, 2010, choosing organic can help reduce your exposure to environmental chemicals that can increase the risk of contracting cancer. The President?s Cancer Panel consists of three distinguished scientists or physicians that are appointed by, and report directly to the President. In 2010 the Panel reported the following:
?Exposure to environmental contaminants can result in harm to health because they may alter or interfere with a variety of biologic processes, including hormone production and function, DNA damage, and gene expression or suppression.
-?Children can be exposed to toxins in utero via placental transfer and/or after birth via breast milk.
-?The number and prevalence of known or suspected carcinogens is growing. Many environmental contaminants are manufactured synthetic chemicals; waste and by-products of industrial processes; chemical fertilizers, pesticides, and other chemicals used in farming and for landscaping; chemicals used in other commercial activities; combustion by-products of petroleum-powered engines; water disinfection/chlorination by-products; and both man-made and natural sources of radiation.
-?In the United States, about 42 billion pounds of chemicals are produced or imported daily. Many of these chemicals are used in massive quantities exceeding one million tons per year. Exposure limits have been set for some of these substances, but the vast majorities are unregulated.
-?Less than 2% of chemicals on the market have actually been tested for carcinogenicity.
-?Exposure to pesticides can be decreased by choosing, to the extent possible, products grown without pesticides or chemical fertilizers?
-The full report can be found: http://deainfo.nci.nih.gov/advisory/pcp/glance/At-a-Glance_Environmental.pdf
-According to Childhood Brain Tumors, Residential Insecticide Exposure, and Pesticide Metabolism Genes,? published in Environmental Health Perspectives, ?Insecticides that target the nervous system may play a role in the development of childhood brain tumors (CBTs).The complete study can be found here: http://ehp03.niehs.nih.gov/article/fetchArticle.action?articleURI=info%3Adoi%2F10.1289%2Fehp.0901226
DEVELOPMENTAL DISORDERS: According to The Pesticide Action Network (PAN), infants and young children are more susceptible to the effects of pesticide exposure than adults (However, adults are most definitely affected too). Their developing brains and bodies are in the midst of complex and fragile developmental processes that regulate tissue growth and organ development – these developmental processes can be irreversibly derailed by pesticide exposure.
–Research indicates that children exposed to pesticides either in utero, or during other critical periods face significant health risks including higher incidence of: birth defects, childhood brain cancers, autism spectrum disorders (ASD), attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (AD/HD), neuro-developmental delays, and endocrine disruption.
– An Anthropological Approach to the Evaluation of Preschool Children Exposed to Pesticides in Mexico,? published in Environmental Health Perspectives looks at Yaqui Indian children in Mexico sharing similar genetic and cultural backgrounds with one significant difference: those living in one area were regularly exposed to pesticides in an agricultural community. Researchers found that an array of impaired brain and nervous system functions, including social behaviors and the ability to draw, are correlated to pesticide exposure during development. The article can be viewed here: http://ehp03.niehs.nih.gov/article/fetchArticle.action?articleURI=info:doi/10.1289/ehp.98106347
-Another Environmental Health Perspective article regarding developmental effects beyond neurotoxicity and the immediate and delayed onset effects on heart and liver functions concluded that the fetal and neonatal neurotoxicity of Chlorpyifos (CPF) and related insecticides is a major concern for heart and liver functions. The full article can be viewed here:
-The New York Times published an article on pesticides and low birth rates. The study was part of a long-running project by Columbia University researchers to gauge the effects of urban pollution on mothers and children. The study concluded that Pregnant women in upper Manhattan who were heavily exposed to two common insecticides had smaller babies than their neighbors, but recent restrictions on the two substances quickly lowered exposure and increased the babies? size.The full report can be viewed here: http://www.nytimes.com/2004/03/22/nyregion/22fumes
– A 2009 study published in Acta Paediatrica, entitled Agrichemicals in Surface Water and Birth Defects in the United States? concluded that birth defect rates in the United States are highest among women conceiving in the spring and summer, a time period correlated with increased levels of pesticides in surface water. The complete study can be found:
REPRODUCTIVE DISORDERS: The Association of Reproductive Health Professionals in Environmental Impacts on Reproductive Health? highlights the following trends:
- – More testicular cancer
- – Falling sperm counts
- – Decline in testosterone levels
- – Earlier puberty in girls
- – Fewer males being born
- – Increases in certain types of birth defects
Some of these trends can be linked directly or indirectly to the chemicals we are exposed to. There are 87,000 chemicals registered for commerce in the United States, and only one-tenth have been tested for potential health effects. This is because the testing of chemicals in the U.S. is limited by the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), which was passed in 1976. This piece of legislation assumes that chemicals are safe unless proven otherwise.
According to the Association of Reproductive Health Professionals, there are definitive links between the environment and reproductive health. Toxins and chemicals contribute to many adverse effects on reproductive health including: menstrual irregularities, early or delayed puberty, infertility, sub fertility, early pregnancy loss, fetal death, impaired fetal growth, low birth weight, premature birth, and structural (e.g. cardiac defect) or functional (e.g. learning disability) birth defects. The impact of exposure to a reproductive toxicant may not be immediately evident, but may emerge over the course of one?s life.
Certain chemicals have a direct negative impact on the reproductive system. Endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDC?s), for example, can mimic hormone-producing glands like the thyroid or pituitary glands, which in effect control reproductive health. Endocrine disruptors are particularly proficient at interfering with reproductive systems, even when exposure levels are extremely low. Other chemicals can have kill or damage reproductive cells, alter the structure of DNA (causing gene mutations), or even cause an epigenetic effect (they change the way genes are expressed, which can affect reproductive outcomes).
|Potential Effects of Popular Endocrine-Disrupting Chemicals: Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs) and Diethylstilbestrol (DES)|
|Altered neurodevelopment as a result of in utero exposure|
|Decreased Semen Quality|
|Altered Pubertal Development|
|Reproductive Tract Malformations|
|Information taken from: Environmental Effects on Reproductive Health? by the Association of Reproductive Health Professionals, found here: http://www.arhp.org/publications-and-resources/clinical-proceedings/RHE/Environmental-Exposures|
There are many recent studies uncovering the wide range of harms pesticides have on men, woman and children alike. Some of these studies include:
-?Effect of Endosulfan on Male Reproductive Development? published in Environmental Health Perspectives can be found: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1241773/ This study concludes that boys who were exposed to the toxic insecticide Endosulfan experienced delayed puberty compared with children who were not exposed.
-Semen quality in relation to biomarkers of pesticide exposure, published in Environmental Health Perspectives can be found: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1241650/ Men from Missouri with elevated levels of pesticides Alachlor, Diazinon or Atrazine in their urine were more likely to have poor sperm quality.
-The Pesticide Action Network partnered with Beyond Pesticides has compiled recent studies regarding the impact of pesticides on reproductive health. This compilation can be found here: http://www.beyondpesticides.org/resources/pesticide-induced-diseases-database/sexual-and-reproductive-dysfunction
AUTISM: According to a study entitled, Maternal Residence Near Agricultural Pesticide Applications and Autism Spectrum Disorders among Children in the California Central Valley,? published in Environmental Health Perspectives, researchers found a six-fold increase in the risk factor for autism in children of women who were exposed to pesticides during gestation. The full article can be read here: http://ehp03.niehs.nih.gov/article/fetchArticle.action?articleURI=info:doi/10.1289/ehp.10168
PARKINSON?S DISEASE: BBC News recently released an article entitled Pesticide Parkinson?s Link Strong?. The article details a study published in the BMC Neurology Journal, which concludes that exposure to pesticides significantly increases the risk of Parkinson?s disease. They found that those exposed to pesticides had a 1.6 times greater risk of developing the disease. While researchers don?t know the exact cause of Parkinson?s, they believe it to be a combination of genetic susceptibility and these types of environmental factors. The complete article can be found here: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/7318188.stm.
Further research can be found on the Organic Trade Associations Website at: http://ota.com/organic/benefits/children.html
What Environmental Problems Do Conventional Farming Practices and Toxic Pesticides Cause?
There are more than 1,055 active ingredients registered as pesticides which are combined to produce of 16,000 pesticides products being used in the United States. Pesticides are designed to kill or otherwise adversely affect living organisms. Because of such, pesticides have a distressing ecological impact. Over 98% of sprayed insecticides and 95% of herbicides reach a destination other than their target species, including non-target species, air, water and soil. The use of pesticides reduces biodiversity, causes water pollution, contributes to soil contamination, reduces nitrogen fixation, destroys habitats, threatens endangered species and contributes to pollinator decline. Robyn O?Brien, author of The Unhealthy Truth, shows how the use of pesticides in conventional farming practices derogates the environment on the OTA affiliated website organicitsworthit.org. She cites the following research as evidence:
- Research performed at Oak Ridge National Laboratory?s Environmental Sciences division revealed that hypoxia, a fatal condition that affects thousands of fish, shrimp, and shellfish in the Gulf of Mexico each year, is partly the result of fertilizer run-off from agricultural activities in the Mississippi basin.Source: http://www.newswise.com/articles/view/539988/.
- According to research performed by Tufts University biologists, tadpoles experienced negative physiological changes, including deformed hearts and malfunctioning kidneys and digestive systems, in early phases of their lives when they were exposed to atrazine, an herbicide commonly used to treat golf courses and residential lawns.Source: http://www.newswise.com/institutions/view/?id=1939.
- Research at the NOAA National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science has shown negative effects of the commonly used herbicide atrazine on phytoplankton, the free-floating algae that form the base of the food chain for aquatic animals. Results, published in January 2007 in the journal Pesticide—Biochemistry and Physiology, showed protein levels in phytoplankton decreased as a result of exposure to atrazine.Source: Pesticide—Biochemistry and Physiology, January 2007
- Pesticide residues are widely found in U.S. streams, according to data for 1992-2001 released in March 2006 by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). More than 80 percent of urban streams and more than 50 percent of agricultural streams had concentrations in water of at least one pesticide that exceeded a water-quality benchmark for aquatic life?.Source: U.S. Geological Survey, Pesticides in the Nation?s Streams and Ground Water, 1992-2001,? http://pubs.usgs.gov/circ/2005/1291/.
- The United Nations in February 2006 released a report entitled Challenges to International Waters: Regional Assessments in a Global Perspectives,? resulting from the Global International Waters Assessment project. Noting pressures from human activities have weakened the ability of aquatic ecosystems to perform essential functions,? the report looked at freshwater shortage, pollution, over-fishing, habitat modification, and global change. Pointing out that oxygen-depleted zones are present not only in enclosed seas such as the Baltic and Black Seas but also in large coastal areas, the report states, Globally, harmful algal blooms are considerably more widespread and frequent than they were a decade ago, a situation that is expected to further deteriorate by 2020 due to the increased application of agricultural fertilizers, especially in Asia and Africa.The project also found that reduced stream flow inappropriate irrigation practices and use of groundwater have increased the salinity of freshwater throughout the world. As a result, agricultural land is becoming too saline to support important crops.The report recommends an integrated approach linking water management to land and economic management.Source: .www.giwa.net
- Nitrates in drinking water are statistically associated with an increased risk of bladder cancer at levels lower than the U.S. EPA standard of 10 parts per million (ppm), according to a University of Iowa Study of almost 22,000 women. Long-term heavy use of nitrogen fertilizers in Iowa has resulted in nitrate concentrations in excess of 5 ppm in 30-40 percent of the state?s municipal water supplies, according to a study published in Epidemiology. Peter Weyer of the University of Iowa?s Center for Health Effects of Environmental Contamination, and colleagues analyzed cancer incidences in women participating in the Iowa Women?s Health Study, and found that women drinking water with average nitrate levels greater than 2.46 ppm were 2.83 times more likely to develop bladder cancer than women exposed to 0.36 ppm of nitrates in water.Source: Epidemiology, Vol. 11(3): 327-338, May 2001.
- The report Waste Lands: The Threat of Toxic Fertilizer? noted that many commercial fertilizers contain toxic metals. An analysis of 29 fertilizers found that each contained 22 different heavy metals. In 20 of the products, levels exceeded the limits set on wastes sent to public landfills, with disturbing quantities of arsenic, lead, mercury, cadmium, chromium, and dioxin, among others.Source: Waste Lands: The Threat of Toxic Fertilizer,? U.S. Public Interest Research Group, May 2001, available at www.pirg.org/toxics/reports/wastelands.
- ?The principal nutrient of concern in coastal waters is nitrogen. Our use of commercial fertilizer and combustion of fossil fuels has had a dramatic effect on the global nitrogen cycle. U.S. coastal ecosystems are receiving one hundred to four hundred percent more nitrogen than natural systems would experience?Ninety percent of the nitrogen pollution that contributes to the dead zone? in the Gulf of Mexico is discharged to tributaries in the Mississippi and Ohio River watersheds from farms and cities located north of St. Louis, MO. Source:Testimony of the Honorable Eileen Claussen, president and chair of the board, Strategies for the Global Environment, and member, Pew Oceans Commission, before the Subcommittee on Fisheries Conservation, Wildlife and Oceans, House Committee on Resources, May 24, 2001.
- Nearly all crops grown in industrialized countries are exposed to more nitrogen than they can use. Too much nitrogen can throw the soil community out of balance, and also lead to algal blooms in water that suffocate other aquatic organisms. In fact, algal blooms and dead zones? are now regular features of coastal life in many places around the world.Source:?Toxic Fertility,? by Danielle Nierenberg, WorldWatch, March/April 2001, pages 30-38.
- Researchers at Iowa State University (ISU) are concerned over water quality in Iowa, particularly with the high levels of phosphorus due to the use of farm and lawn fertilizers. Phosophorus levels in Iowa are some of the highest in the world, according to John A. Downing, professor of aquatic ecology at ISU, noting that this contributes to eutrophication, or algae blooms.Source:Iowa State University Extension press release, Sept. 21, 2001.
- Nitrogen delivery to the Gulf of Mexico could have been reduced 33 percent between 1960-1998 if the use of nitrogen-containing fertilizer in the Mississippi Basin had been cut by 12 percent, according to Gregory F. McIsaac, Mark B. David, George Z. Gertner, and Donald A. Goolsby.Source: Brief Communications, Nov. 8, 2001, issue of Nature (pages 166-167).
- The increasing use of commercial fertilizers could be contributing to global warming by decreasing oxygen and raising levels of nitrous oxide in coastal waters, according to scientists at the National Institute of Oceanography in India. Their findings, published in the Nov. 16, 2000, issue of Nature, found nitrous oxide levels in the coastal Arabian Sea that are 100 times greater than normal levels.Source:Nature, Nov. 16, 2000.
How to Avoid Pesticides?
Go Organic! By law, organic products must be made without the use of toxic and synthetic pesticides.