I think it is unfair to focus solely on "chemical" (ie, man-made chemicals).
Doing this makes it impossible to evaluate their relative riskiness
compared to everyday things we use or consume. For example, to
quote from a letter to the editor of New Scientist (7 Feb. 1998) by Cheryl
Monks in reference to an earlier article about the harmful effects of
"The article also stated that bromoxynil is a carcinogen and mutagen.
While this may be true, it is also true that parsnips, mushrooms and black
pepper contain carcinogens (namely psoralens, hydrazines and piperine,
respectively) and that lettuce, rhubarb and string beans, among many
others, are kinown to be mutagenic. Government authorities haven't yet
banned the population from eating them, and it is important that the true
risk to health from pesticides be assessed and understood before
jumping on the "all-pesticides-are-bad" bandwagon."
I am ready to agree that heavy reliance on pesticides is not a
sustainable strategy, and reducing dependence on them is desirable for
that reason by itself. However, I would like to know whether exposure
to any particular pesticide residue carries more risk of endocrine
disruption, mutagenicity or carcinogenicity than naturally-occurring
substances in the food I am consuming.... or, even if such residues
appreciably add to naturally-occuring risks. I presume that pesticide
residues in food (and elsewhere in the environment) are harmful, but I
don't know how this compares with the general level of risk that is
already out there.
Heck, that wonderful smell in the spruce woods is as overpowering as
the odour after the neighbouring farmer sprays a field -- it might also be
as carcinogenic as any farm chemical for all I know. And that is the
point: I don't know. So, in fairness to those of us who are trying to
make informed decisions about managing our exposure to all sorts of
substances in our environment, let's advocate a comparative set of
studies of relative toxicity, relative carcinogenicity and relative
mutagenicity. (eg chemical X is twice as mutagenic as lettuce but only
two-thirds as mutagenic as rhubarb)
I know how worried/comfortable I am about the types of food I eat, but I'd
like to be able to use that level of comfort as an index to how worried I
should be about man-made substances in/on my food or in the water or
for what it's worth,
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