Cultural Encounters: A Journal For The Theology Of Culture Volume 11 Number 2 (Summer 2016) - Page 49

VOLUME 11 NUMBER 2 2016 CHILDREN, PESTICIDES, AND FOOD Steven A. Kolmes∗ My talk will focus on pesticide impacts on children and their special vulnerabilities. There is a report from the Environmental Working Group (EWG) that is probably the beginning of people paying very close attention to the issues of pesticides and children. If you go to the EWG website, you can read this report and a lot of other reports on human health. The report is called Body Burden: The Pollution in Newborns.1 Body Burden is an expression that means the burden of toxins that we all carry inside ourselves. This was a study done in 2004. No one had ever done a study of this scale before because it was extremely expensive. The researchers obtained consent from ten expectant mothers that at birth they would extract some blood from the umbilical cord of the newborn. This is blood that was in the baby’s circulation. They wanted to know at the moment of birth, to what extent we arrive with a burden of toxins from having gone through our gestation in this society. They tested for 413 different chemicals, which is why this study was very expensive. These were all non-standard tests. They were a little over 4,000 tests and they were spending a great deal of money per test for an analytical lab to do these difficult analyses. It was a massive commitment from this NGO to get this information. They looked for pesticides, flame retardants, grease proofings, and some other things. What they found was, of the ten newborns, they averaged 200 chemicals in each baby out of the 413 tested. They picked the 413 as ones they thought they might detect. You need to realize that, in this country, there are roughly 75,000 industrial chemicals in use. The vast majority of these have never been tested for their impact on human health. When the Toxic Substance Control Act was passed in the 1970s, industry insisted that the 50,000 or so chemicals in current use be grandfathered in. Those chemicals were all grandfathered in as usable until it could be determined that they were dangerous later. Most of them have simply never been tested. When you look DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.11630/1550-4891.11.02.46 ∗ Steven A. Kolmes is Director of the Environmental Studies Program, Professor of Biology, and Occupant of the Rev. John Molter, C.S.C., Chair in Science at the University of Portland; kolmes@up.edu. 1. “Body Burden: The Pollution in Newborns,” Environmental Working Group, July 14, 2005, accessed February 2, 2016, http://www.ewg.org/research/body-burdenpollution-newborns. 46