High level of pesticides, toxins and heavy metals in non-organic foods, superfoods and herbs imported from China
With the growing interest for healthy lifestyle in Western societies, the import of Chinese herbs has grown rapidly to 2.3 billion dollars in just 2011, with an annual increase rate of 36.48% compared to last year.
However, a recent research by Greenpeace has revealed that non-organic Chinese herbs sold in North America and Europe have alarming levels of pesticides and heavy metals that exceed the maximum allowable limits in Europe. “Honeysuckle China purchased in Canada even reached the second largest product containing the most pesticides”, says Eric Darier, the campaigner on sustainable agriculture Greenpeace International.
Buy Organic produce! U.S. grown conventional/non-organic herbs and produce have pesticides residue in them:
A 2009 study from University of Davis showed alarming levels of 15 different pesticides residue inside both imported and domestically non-organic grown herbs, fruits and vegetables.
Also, researchers from Boston University found out that women who take conventional herbal supplements have 23% higher levels of lead in their blood. Interestingly, there was no difference in lead values in men who took herbal supplements and researchers believe that men appear to metabolize lead differently than women. Lead isn’t the only heavy metals found in conventionally grown herbs, fruits and vegetables and high lead levels are usually accompanied by higher levels of arsenic and cadmium.
High levels of heavy metals in non-organic herbs and foods are mostly to do with the pollution that exists inside the soil, air and water. Keep in mind that Chinese herbs by themselves might not be polluted but airborne and soil pollution are so significant in China that herbs grown in contaminated soil could be filled with high levels of toxins and heavy metals.
In fact, a 2002 study by researchers from University of California detected no levels of toxins or heavy metals including lead, arsenic, cadmium or chromium in Chinese and medicinal herbs that were grown in Sacramento area.
An official study by the Chinese government shows that one fifth of farm lands in China are contaminated with high levels of toxic heavy metals including lead, cadmium and arsenic:
According to the report by the Environmental Protection Ministry, 16.1% of China’s soil and 19.4% of its arable land are highly contaminated with cadmium, nickel and arsenic. High levels of toxins and heavy metals are a major concern since rapid industrialization in China has caused irreversible damages to the environment.
The study was performed on soil samples from two-thirds of China’s land which is about 6.3 square kilometers. According to researchers, 82.8% of the polluted land was contaminated with inorganic materials including arsenic, copper, mercury, lead and cadmium.
"The survey showed that it is hard to be optimistic about the state of soil nationwide," the Chinese ministry said in a statement recently."Due to long periods of extensive industrial development and high pollutant emissions, some regions have suffered deteriorating land quality and serious soil pollution."
Beside the polluted soil, the Chinese government says that the number of groundwater sites with poor quality has increased to 59.6%. A previous report last year stated that 70% of groundwater in North China is highly polluted and unfit for human consumption.
“The situation is quite serious -- groundwater is important source for water use, including drinking water, and if it gets contaminated, it’s very costly and difficult to clean,” said Ma Jun, director of the Beijing-based Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs.
Recently, a chemical spill poisoned the water of more than 2 million people in North West of China with carcinogen benzene.
No wonder why non-organic herbs, superfoods and protein powders imported from China are filled with high levels of heavy metals and toxins.
How to reduce your exposure to pesticide residue and heavy metals:
It’s safer to avoid purchasing foods that are imported from countries like China. Keep in mind that 90% of America’s vitamin C supplements, 70% of U.S apple juice, and 78% of the tilapia consumed in US comes directly from China.
Organic foods are known to have lower levels of contaminants and pesticides residue in them. However, imported foods (especially from China) could still be contaminated because of the pollution that exists in water or soil depending on where they are planted.
Also, USDA organic laws do not regulate heavy metals content in foods imported from China, therefore imported foods could be contaminated with heavy metals and toxins (depending on where they are grown). Keep in mind that China is a big country and there are still vast regions in China that have minimal pollution and their soil is relatively clean of heavy metals and environmental pollutions.