By Rachel Lincoln Sarnoff
Executive Director/CEO Healthy Child Healthy World
I’m so inspired by last week’s Grist profile on Mari Rose Taruc, an environmental activist and a mother of two asthmatic kids who saw the connection between pesticides and health first hand when she emigrated from the Philippines to a farming community in central California, and now works on environmental justice causes as the staff director for the Asian Pacific Environmental Network. Talk about a Mom on a Mission!
The effect of pesticides on our health cannot be understated, and this month’s release of an EPA panel assessment on atrazine was groundbreaking—even if it didn’t make the front-page news. As reported by Mother Jones, until recently the EPA has considered atrazine, the second-most widely used pesticide in the United States and a groundwater contaminant, “non-carcinogenic.” However, in 2009 the EPA assembled a panel of independent scientists and public health experts to assess that judgment; last week, the findings were released, with “strong” epidemiological evidence linking the pesticide to thyroid cancer, “suggestive” evidence linking it to ovarian cancer and “inadequate evidence” to determine whether or not atrazine is a cause of a laundry list of other types of cancer.
Obviously, the EPA downplayed atrazine’s carcinogenic effects. And it may want to add another side effect to the list, as a new study recently published in the Environmental Research journal reported a connection between atrazine and menstrual irregularities associated with infertility.
Which makes even more interesting last month’s Organic Center study on the impact of an organic diet, in which “Jane Doe” switched to organic foods that increased her nutrient intake by 79% and reduced her pesticide load by two-thirds (despite tripling her servings of fruits and vegetables).
Until the EPA takes action, we can do little to control the amount of pesticides like atrazine in the environment. But we can take control over what types of foods we give to our families. Whether it’s in your supermarket or, like Mari Rose Taruc, in your community, let’s take a stand against pesticides!