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Notice: Please refrain from poisoning the children.
Only a few more months and every field in the city will be teeming with kids. Most of them will be amassed into a single unit in pursuit of a rolling black and white object. However, my eye will be in search of the outliers. I am not talking about the unstoppable talent streaking down the field, waiting for the ball to pop free of the hive, leaving them with a wide open breakaway. I am referring to those, often fashionably dressed, collectors of taraxacum officinale. Otherwise known as dandelion pickers. They never fail to warm my heart. Mostly, because I am so pleased that at least there are still dandelions and clover out there for them to pick.
It’s difficult for an organization such as the Fernie Child Care centre, that adds 20 diapers to the landfill every day to enter a serious discussion on environmental stewardship - but let’s try. Letting go of guilt is at the very least carbon neutral. Hopefully, one day we too can be environmentally friendly.
There are two categories of poison out there that I would prefer not grace my children’s palate. They are pesticides and food dyes. Now whom to offend first: the immaculate lawn lovers or the slushy defenders. I would prefer it not come to this but alas it has to be said: Please put that food dye, dextrose laden substance on the ground and back slowly away from my child - and nobody will get hurt.
The evidence is mixed as to whether food dyes contribute to behavioural issues in children but an article in the Lancet suggests that if your child is drifting unexpectedly towards attention deficit, it’s not the sugar, it’s the food dye. And in a study of food dye in the 1990‘s, Canadian scientists found red 40, yellow 5 and 6, were all contaminated with human carcinogens. Partly it is because Canadian regulations are not as tight as they are in Europe. In Britain, Strawberry Nutri-grain cereal bars contain strawberries, not food dye. In North America, red dye 40 does the job. Do my children consume food dyes? Yep. Do I try to offset their neon diets with naturally coloured foods rich in anti-oxidants? You bet. Just because the evidence isn’t in that dyes are categorically linked to neurological problems in kids doesn’t stop me from believing that they cannot possibly be good for you. For a pocket guide that you can stick on your fridge of foods that are high in anti-oxidants and counteract the carcinogenic residues in food dyes, or any processed food, go to cfp.ca/content/53/11/1905 **
When it comes to pesticides I am afraid all classes, including mosquito repellent, have been shown to harm unborn children. At this very moment, Unicef is advocating for pesticide impregnated mosquito nets to decrease childhood deaths from malaria. While malaria poses a great risk in some countries the long-term cancer risk does not favour repeated use of insecticides on North American children. With their smaller bodies, and tendency to explore, children are at far greater risk of being exposed to the harmful effects of pesticides. The literature does not support the concept that some pesticides are safer than others. Pregnant women and infants are a special risk group, given the findings showing increased risk of childhood acute lymphocytic leukemia when women use pesticides in the home and garden during pregnancy. In spite of the important concern that pesticides may be toxic to the developing nervous system, only two studies specifically examined neurological effects in children - both were positive! ***
A report from the National Academy of Sciences came to the conclusion that children have not been adequately protected from pesticides and recommended changes to regulations to remedy this. The result was the Food Quality Protection Act, passed by US congress in 1996. Unfortunately, in Canada, little has been done to update the regulation of pesticides.
Many municipalities, including Fernie, have created pesticide free bylaws.
Did you know that dandelion greens are rich in vitamins A, B, D and iron, potassium and zinc? It is such a great diuretic that the French call it Pissenlit: wet the bed. If you want to go foraging for dandelion greens you have to get them before they flower, after which time they are extremely bitter. Warning: just like snow, avoid consuming the brown and yellow ones.
***www.cape.ca/toxics/pesticides or www.premierinc.com/.../01-systematic-review-Canada-pesticides.pdf
** “Role of nutrition in preventing cancer.” Richard Beliveau Canadian Family Physician