A recent test by the Environmental Law Foundation found higher than acceptable levels of lead in both organic and “conventional” juices and baby foods. They filed a notice of violation with a list of which foods were fine, and which ones weren’t. Foods with violations included apple juice, grape juice, packaged pears and peaches (baby food included), and fruit cocktail.
At first glance, it’s shocking to see how many organic brands tested positive for lead. The only organic brand that had acceptable levels was Knudsen, which is also one of the oldest organic juice brands. Where is the lead coming from? It could be coming from the manufacturing plants, from the packaging or from somewhere else. But it could also be coming from the soil. Huh?
As I mention in my book, Organic Manifesto, lead arsenate was used as a pesticide in orchards for over 100 years. While it only takes three years of not applying toxic chemicals to orchards for their fruits to become certified organic, who knows how long it will take for all that previously used lead and arsenic to work its way out of the soil. In the meantime, we are stuck with it.
What are the effects of too much lead? Well, let me just quote the official section of the Children’s Environmental Health Center section on lead:
Lead can affect almost every organ and system in your body. It can be equally harmful if breathed or swallowed. The part of the body most sensitive to lead exposure is the central nervous system, especially in children, who are more vulnerable to lead poisoning than adults.
A child who swallows large amounts of lead can develop brain damage that can cause convulsions and death; the child can also develop blood anemia, kidney damage, colic, and muscle weakness. Repeated low levels of exposure to lead can alter a child’s normal mental and physical growth, and result in learning or behavioral problems.
If you are pregnant, exposure to high levels of lead can cause miscarriage, premature births, and smaller babies. Exposure can cause decreased mental ability, learning difficulties, and reduced growth in the children exposed to lead during pregnancy.
In adults, exposure to lead may be short-term or chronic. Repeated or chronic exposure can cause lead to accumulate in your body, leading to lead poisoning. Lead poisoning can cause metallic taste, poor appetite, weight loss, colic, upset stomach, nausea, vomiting, and muscle cramps.
Short-term exposure to lead can irritate the eyes on contact, and cause high blood pressure, headache, irritability, reduced memory, disturbed sleep, and mood and personality changes. Breathing lead compounds can irritate the nose and throat. Exposure to higher levels of lead can damage the brain; kidneys; reproductive system; blood cells, causing anemia; and the nerves, causing weakness. Exposure may also cause muscle and joint pain, decreased reaction time, poor coordination, and poor memory. Lead is listed as a substance reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen in the Eleventh Report on Carcinogens, published by the National Toxicology Program, because exposure to lead has been associated with lung, stomach, and bladder cancer.
If you think you have been exposed to lead, contact your health care professional.
The good news is that you shouldn’t drink too much juice anyway—or give juice to your kids. It’s much better to drink water and eat an apple than have a glass of apple juice. And while that organic apple still might have a bit of lead in it, you’ll get more fiber from eating it, and will reduce your exposure to lead contamination from the concentrate.
Once again, we can’t go back and undo what has already been done…we can only stop it from continuing. And it is continuing. There is only one way to stop it: Demand Organic! Stop the onslaught of untested toxic chemicals in our lives, our soil, our water, our air, our bodies, our children, and our unborn children.
P.S. I’d like to thank the Men’s Health team for alerting me to this report…via Twitter! Keep up with Farm Country Kitchen news between blog posts with our Twitter accounts- Maria & Farm Country Kitchen.