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Antibiotics With Your Lettuce? Pollutants in Your Food

written by: SallyOdum•edited by: Niki Fears•updated: 8/16/2009

Environment pollution is rampant in streams, rivers and even in your soil. From overuse of antibiotics to andro in streams, the environment impact that is known is hard to comprehend, that which is unknown is frightening. Today more than ever, environment protection should be on every "to do" list.

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    Pollutants In The Food Supply For an unhealthy dose of antibiotics, you might have to do nothing more than eat a salad containing lettuce or chow down on a side order of french fries. That's because vegetables such as lettuce, corn and potatoes absorb antibiotics when they are grown in soil fertilized with contaminated livestock manure. The fish you're eating may contain an environmental androgen. Alligator meat (do people really eat this?) may contain female hormones. Every day, it seems, something new is discovered hiding insidiously in our food supply where it really does not belong. It's not like the waitress asks, "Will you be having antibiotics with your lettuce today?" Or, "How about a dose of andro with that mutated fried fish?" You have a right to know what you may be unknowingly consuming - whether its GMO's or components of jet fuel.

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    Overuse Of Antibiotics

    The widespread overuse of antibiotics in livestock has led to a growing problem in agriculture. Here is how the problem occurs. Livestock on large corporate farms (and even some family farms) are injected with everything from hormones (to make cows produce more milk) to preventative antibiotics (across the spectrum – supposedly to prevent a host of would-be diseases, not to "cure" them). The animal urinates or excretes feces. It either goes into the ground to eventually run off into a stream and the water supply, thereby contaminating them or it will be sold as a soil amendment / fertilizer.

    When it is used as a fertilizer, this antibiotic-ridden manure can then become a part of your soil. Unfortunately, plants can absorb the antibiotics into their root systems and then into the leaves and fruit. You may have the same problem using any type of animal manure – from turkeys to chickens, cows and horses. This is how even the vegetables in your own back yard could become contaminated.
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    Environment Pollution

    In 2002, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) reported that "Test results never before made public show that leafy vegetables grown with contaminated irrigation water take up, store and concentrate potentially harmful levels of perchlorate, a thyroid toxin that is the explosive main ingredient of rocket and missile fuel." The studies in question revolved around the Colorado River, where high contamination with perchlorate was found. Unfortunately, vegetables store a higher dosage of the chemical than water.

    In some tests, the perchlorate dose in the vegetables was 65 times the amount in the water. The Colorado River is the primary source of irrigation water for farms in Arizona, California and Nevada. These states grow most of the lettuce sold in the U.S., which is why the focus is on lettuce rather than other vegetables. Aerospace and defense contractor Lockheed Martin is the major user of perchlorate in the area. It was put forth by the EWG that the company knew about vegetables absorbing the perchlorate as early as 1997. The state responded by setting perchlorate levels for water at six parts per billion, although many environmentalists argue this amount is still too high to be safe for human consumption.

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    Hormones In The Water

    Descending into the realm of the truly weird, consider this case documented by W. Mike Howell and the students in his vertebrate biology class in Pensacola, FL in the 70's. They noticed a chemical smell emitting from a creek as they tried to document mosquitofish therein. Every fish they netted appeared to be a male, having a thin, elongated anal fin that males use for copulation. They wondered about this unlikely ratio until they noted that one of the "male" fish appeared to be pregnant, with a black dot on its back just as a pregnant female would have. The pollution source was traced to wastes from nearby pulp and paper mills. Androstenedione (andro) was determined to be the culprit for the masculinization of the mosquitofish. The andro arose from the biotransformation of pollutants. This case represented the first environmental androgen --or a pollutant that functions like a male sex hormone--discovered in nature.

    Similar cases have shown male alligators being born without male parts due to female hormones that were found in the water. It was determined that dairy farmers administered the hormones to their cows to make them produce more milk. The agricultural run-off went from the farm to the stream, contaminating it with female hormones. Agricultural run-off might also contain heavy chemical fertilizers.

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    Environment Protection

    All of the above documented cases show the perilous nature of harmful chemicals negatively impacting nature and the world's food supply. As these are only part of the documented cases, it is therefore unknown how many species or vegetables have been affected, in what way and to what degree the damage is which remains undocumented.

    Cases like these make one realize the urgent need to shine a spotlight on these environment pollution problems and work together to immediately achieve a humane and viable solution for the safety and well-being of all. At its core, environment protection becomes a matter of survival of the human race and all other existing life forms.