Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Buying organic is a social justice issue

Kids in agricultural areas or who have parents who work agricultural jobs face greater risks than kids in non-agricultural areas.

In a San Francisco Bay Area study, children whose fathers were occupationally exposed to pesticides were found to be six times more likely than other children to develop Ewing's sarcoma, a rare bone tumor. Having fathers with agricultural occupations was found to increase a child's risk of contracting this cancer by ninefold.[49] A study of children diagnosed with cancer in the Denver area found a strong association between parents' application of pesticides in the yard and the development of soft tissue sarcomas. This same study found that children with lymphomas (cancer of the lymph system) were twice as likely to have been exposed to insecticides during household exterminations compared to healthy children.[50] In a study of Wilms' tumor (malignant tumor of the kidney) among children in Brazil, consistently elevated risks of Wilms' tumor were associated with parental exposure to pesticides through farm work.[51]
Source The Organic Manifesto of a Biologist Mother:

FARMERS have higher rates of certain cancers than the general population. So do farmers’ children.7 An emerging body of evidence suggests that exposure to pesticides on farms may be partof the reason.Other studies have revealed possible links between agricultural use of pesticides and birth defects. For example, according toa recent California study, living near agricultural fields where pesticides are sprayed raises the risk of stillbirths due to birth defects. Researchers found the largest risk among babies whose mothers lived within one mile of such areas during their first trimester of pregnancy. Similarly, a Minnesota study found that the children of farmers, as well as those born to families living in agricultural areas, have elevated rates of birth defects. Similar findings come from Iowa.8

Studies quoted -
7. Cancers found in excess among U.S. farmers include blood and nervous system cancers. Cancers found in excess among their children include brain cancers, leukemias, Wilms’ tumor, Ewing’s sarcoma, and germ cell tumors. L.E. Fleming et al., “National Health Interview Survey Mortality Among US Farmers and Pesticide Applicators,” American Journal of Industrial Medicine 43(2003): 227-33; L.M. O’Leary et al., “Parental Occupational Exposures and Risk of Childhood Cancer: A Review,” American Journal of Industrial Medicine 20 (1991):17-35; J.L. Daniels et al., “Pesticides and Childhood Cancers,” Environmental Health Perspectives 105(1997): 1068-77.
8. E.M. Bell et al., “A Case-Control Study of Pesticides and Fetal Death Due to Congenital Anomalies,” Epidemiology 12(2001): 148-156; V.F. Garry et al,“Pesticide Appliers, Biocides, and Birth Defects in Rural Minnesota,” Environmental Health Perspectives 104(1996): 394-99; R. Munger et al., “Birth Defects and Pesticide-Contaminated Water Supplies in Iowa,” American Journal of Epidemiology136(1992): 959. Birth defects associated with pesticide exposure include cleft lip and palate, limb defects, heart malformations, spina bifida, hydocephaly, undescended testicles, and hypospadias. See also G. Solomon et al., Pesticides andHuman Health: A Resource for Health Care Professionals (San Francisco: Physicians forSocial Responsibility, 2000), pp. 40-42.

For us, buying organic is not just about protecting our children it's about protecting all the children of farm workers. We live in an area that is sprayed regularly. They'll tell you it won't hurt you, but I have a friend on disability as a direct result of being in the wrong place at the wrong time - she was in a field doing an inspection with US Customs when it was sprayed with pesticide (boll weevil killer, most likely) and her lungs - 3 years later - are still so damaged she can't lead a normal life. She was a marathon runner before the pesticides. Now most people are not going to breath in that much at one time, but it is constantly in the air in agricultural areas.

Further reading

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