Article #2: Vegetarian Mother's Milk Safer
The breast milk of vegetarian women is significantly safer than that of meat-eating women, according to a study conducted by the Washington-based Environmental Defense Fund (EDF).
Last June, government and university researchers testified before a senate subcommittee that it is difficult, if not impossible, to find safe milk for new-born infants anywhere in the world. The researchers cited an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) study conducted in 1975 which indicated that 99% of breast milk samples taken from more than 1,400 nursing mothers in 46 states, were contaminated with pesticides, such as Dieldrin and DDT, and other industrial compounds such as polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs).
PCBs are suspected carcinogens, and in low doses can cause sterility in animals. They are now widespread in the environment, because of accidental spills and deliberate, covert dumping of the chemicals into public water supplies.
For instance, a number of factories along the Hudson River have for years been circumventing state water purity laws by processing PCBs, benzene, chloroform, and other chemicals through municipal sewage treatment plants— despite the fact that such plants are incapable of filtering out toxic chemicals before dumping the water into the river.
This fall (however), the EDF tested breast milk samples from 50 predominantly vegetarian women, and found that the levels of pesticides such as DDT in their milk were only 1/3 to 1/2 those of mothers eating a conventional diet.
The levels of PCBs, however, were only slightly reduced from the average breast milk concentration of 1.8 parts per million—10 times higher than the maximum amount considered "safe" for babies.
The women chosen for the study ate milk and dairy products as well as fruit, grains, and vegetables, and a few ate fish as often as once a week.
The EDF researchers say they cannot explain why not eating meat should make such a difference in the pesticide levels of nursing mothers. They suggest that it's probably that vegetarians eat more organically grown foods (foods grown without pesticides) than do most carnivores.
The foregoing article and headline (with a rather sensational sub-heading, "Meateaters Breast Milk Laced with Pesticides") was found in a recent Earth Watch section of New Age Magazine.
It may be that some vegetarians eat more organically grown food, but this is a lame explanation for the reduced levels of pesticides as noted. In the last issue of VV, Nat Altman noted that dairy products contain "only about 2/5 the pesticide residues as (compared to) red-meat, fish, and poultry. Oils, vegetable fats, and leafy vegetables contain about 1/7 as much; fruits and legumes are about 1/8 as much; and the figure for grains and cereals is only 1/24 the pesticide residues found in meat."
This is due to the concentrating factor as the contaminant goes through the additional link in the ecological chain; that is to say, an animal (or human) is likely to concentrate the pollutant in its body; it may also dispose of some of it in milk. Actual tests in Britain have shown the pesticide residue level in humans to be highest in. meat-eaters, lower in lacto-vegetarians, and lowest in total-vegetarians. It is very likely that the PCB levels would follow a similar pattern, as PCBs are not just industrial pollutants but are largely produced by the breakdown over the years, of DDT in the soil and environment.
Given the many proven advantages of breast-feeding by a healthy human mother, we do not feel that vegetarians should be stampeded into forsaking this practice that is so potentially beneficial for both mother and baby. Considering that the pesticide (and probably PCB) level of vegetable-source foods is such a small fraction compared to that of even the dairy products, it may well be considered by even lacto-veg. mothers to substitute leafy greens and other rich sources of nutriment, for dairy products, at least during pregnancy and lactation. Also, we cannot refrain from commenting that even eating fish "as often as once a week" could easily be a factor in keeping PCB levels up.
Home > Lesson 32 - Why We Should Not Eat Meat
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