Persistent Organic Pollutants

Persistent organic pollutants (POPs) are toxic pollutants that include industrial chemicals and pesticides. There are POPs (see hit list) targeted for a ban on use and production worldwide. Many of these POPs have been banned in the US, but worldwide controls are not set. POPs used overseas migrate great distances through our atmosphere, reaching even the Arctic. They do not disintegrate easily and bioaccumulate up the food chain throughout the world.

We are all familiar with the health risks that DDT presented in the past.  DDT is still found in our environment today. Another equally concerning toxin is called, dioxin. This is a chemical by-product of combustion in the pulp and paper-making industry that is released into our air and water. It is concentrated in fat and so has found its way into the food chain. It has been detected in the fat of animals and humans and even in breastmilk (not a reason to worry about breastfeeding – the benefits still outweigh any potential risks!).

The Environmental Protection Agency has released a report that points to the carcinogenic risks of dioxin. PCB’s and furans are other concerning POPs. Health problems such as cancer, learning disorders, poor immune function, and reproductive issues (such as low sperm count and endometriosis) have been linked to exposure to POPs. An analysis from the Pesticide Action Network North America’s report titled “Nowhere to Hide” found that a hypothetical daily meal plan from four US regions would deliver between 63 and 70 exposures to POPs per day.

From this report, they list the 10 more contaminated foods with persistent toxic chemicals as:

  • butter
  • cantaloupe
  • cucumber/pickle
  • meatloaf
  • peanuts
  • popcorn
  • radishes
  • spinach
  • summer squash
  • winter squash

POP Hit List for Elimination:

Insecticides

  • aldrin
  • chlordane,
  • DDT,
  • dieldrin,
  • endrin,
  • heptachlor,
  • mirex,
  • toxaphene

Industrial toxins

  • dioxin
  • PCB’s
  • furans