Thursday, August 8, 2013

Veggie Chronicles: Apples

It's time for a brand new edition of the Veggie Chronicles! Today we look at apples! They might be my most frequently consumed fruit. According to the Agricultural Marketing Resource Center, Americans have been consuming roughly 48 pounds of apples and apple products each, per year. And why not! "An Apple A Day Keeps the Doctor Away", Right? I'd argue that the old adage ought to be updated:

"An Organic Apple a Day Keeps the Doctor Away... " 

Now, that is much more appropriate for modern times! In fact, if you aren't eating organic apples you may find yourself at the doctor's on account of your daily apple intake. Let me explain. Apples hold the number one spot on the Environmental Working Group's "Dirty Dozen" List. If you're not familiar with the list, it is a ranking of the most pesticide laden produce based on the USDA's and FDA's own pesticide residue data. 

A sampling of the conventional apple crop nation-wide found 42 different pesticides. Of these 42, 7 are known or probable carcinogens, 19 are suspected hormone disruptors, and 10 are neurotoxins, 6 are developmental or reproductive toxins. Now, we've looked at carrots and peaches before which were contaminated with 26 and 62 pesticides respectively. Quantity wise that puts apples somewhere between the two. Why then are apples #1 on the dirty list? 

One reason is that the top three most common pesticides found on apples, Thiabendazole, Diphenylamine and Acetamiprid contaminate 87.9%, 83.0% and 70.2% of our apple crops, respectively. That means you're almost certainly consuming each of those pesticides on a daily to weekly basis, depending on your personal apple consumption. The next three most commonly found chemicals, Azinphos methyl, Imidacloprid and Carbendazim (MBC) are on 31.8%, 26.2% and 21.1% of the time, respectively. Those numbers might seem low compared to the top three, but to put it in perspective, that means one in every 3-5 apples will have one of more of those three chemicals. Guys, that's insane! And that's only 6 of the 42 found by the USDA and FDA! Imagine the chemical cocktail you're ingesting with your apple slice - what do you think that is doing to your body? Well, I'll tell you. Let's take a look at some of the more concerning of the bunch:

Azinphos methyl:
Azinphos methyl is a known neurotoxin that was derived from nerve gases developed during World War II. It is used as a broad spectrum insecticide because it is an "acetylcholinesterase inhibitor". I didn't know what this was either so I looked into it for us! Bear with me here: According to the Agency for Toxic Substances, acetylcholinesterase inhibitors block the normal breakdown of the neurotransmitter, acetylcholine. Acetylcholine is widely present in the body and triggers nerve, muscle and exocrine grand stimulation (pretty important stuff). Acetylcholinesterase is the enzyme responsible for breaking down acetylcholine so that our nerves, muscles and exocrines aren't over stimulated. So, acetylcholinesterase inhibitors (like the pesticide Azinphos methyl) prevent acetylcholinesterase from breaking down acetylcholine. This results in excess acetylcholine in the body, which can result in buildup in the neuromuscular junctions and glands in your body.
Document from EPA's Website.
According to this document on the EPA's website, azinphos methyl is very highly toxic to fish and aquatic animals. In another document, also on the EPA's website, part of which you can see pictured to the right, Azinphos methyl is accompanied by skull & bone icons, "Keep Out of Reach of Children" and "Danger - Poison". It also suggest that you call a physician or Poison Control Center, drink 2 glasses of water and induce vomitting, if ingested. Azinphos methyl has been found in 31.8% of our apple crop - that's nearly 1 out of every 3 apples. I also want to add that it is extremely toxic to the environment, including the soil, water, air and the animals that inhabit that land and water. Please do not support the contamination of our land and animals. Buy organic.

Thiabendazole is a known developmental/reproductive toxin and probable carcinogen. It is used as a fungicide to control mold and other funguses on produce and a parasiticide to kill worms. You'll find this toxin in 87.9% of apples. 

Diphenylamine (DPA):
Diphenylamine (DPA) is used to prevent apple scald, brown and gray discoloring that commonly shows after storage from bumps and bruises, injury to the stem, and minor sun damage. What I found suprising..or maybe not all that surprising..was that a lot of scalding can occur because of pesticides and chemical field treatments. Hmm..So, instead of stopping the use of the damaging chemicals, we just add another one! According to the Center of Disease Control's Pocket Guide to Chemical Hazards for DPA , the chemicals' main target areas are the respiratory system, cardiovascular system, blood, bladder and reproductive system. They also suggest that humans should avoid  skin contact and eye contact and seek medical attention immediately if swallowed. If inhaled, it can cause blue lips finger nails or skin, confusion, convulsions, coughing, dizziness, headache, nausea and sore throat. According to this EU document, DPA has been labeled as "Dangerous to the Environment", "Very Toxic to Aquatic Organisms", "Harmful to Human Health" and "Harmful if Swallowed". Yet we spray our apples with this stuff? Though the amounts on apples may be small, what about 48 pounds of apples later? You're almost certainly consuming DPA since it's been found by 83% of the crop.

Carbendazim (MBC):
Carbendazim is a fungicide that is a proven hormone disruptor and classified by the EPA as "likely carcinogenic to humans". It has been shown to cause liver and thyroid cancer in animals; it also causes testicular damage. Carbendazim is believed by the EU to affect hormone function as well, as it has been shown to cause deformities to babies while still in the whom, and affect the proper development of sperm and testicles. It has been added to a research priority list of pesticides in the EU, but has been completely banned for use on fruits in Australia. I guess Australia actually values their citizens' health.

Minimize Your Exposure
You don't want your apples messing with your brain, hormones, reproductive organs or your child's development, right? Of course not. I suggest you consume ONLY organic apples. A comparison study is done for the nation's organic apple crop as well. The chance of ingesting the top six pesticides through organic apples drops to 20% (down from 88%), 30% (down from 83%), N/A (down from 70.2%), 0.8% (Down from 31.8%), 0% (down from 26.6%), N/A (down from 21.1%). To lessen your exposure even further, always wash your produce thoroughly. I recommend only using organic baby food or making your own as infants and children are extremely vulnerable to the affects of these toxins. Exposure alters gene expression in adult humans, you can just imagine what sort of chain reactions it sets off when we exposure babies and children to these early in their life.

The EWG encourages consumers to avoid those conventionally grown crops identified as the dirty dozen (including apples, tomato, grapes, celery and more). So, steer clear of the supermarket and seek out your local organic suppliers for these fruity favorites! 

I think I'll make a nice batch of homemade organic non-toxic applesauce tonight :). What about you?

Keep it Real,


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